North Korea beat battling Thais to qualify for AFC U-16 Finals
But Thais put up tough fight, with a goal wrongly disallowed
NORTH KOREA U-15 2
(Kye Tam 32, Paek Kwang Min 62)
THAILAND U-15 0
After yesterday's 2-0 win over Thailand, North Korea's statistics in their AFC Under-16 Championship Group H qualifiers read: Three games played, 12 goals scored, zero conceded.
But the scoreline against Thailand hardly told the whole story.
While the North Koreans were comfortable winners in their other Group H games against Singapore and Cambodia, things were closer against Thailand's tyros.
North Korea opened the scoring in the 32nd minute through a header from Kye Tam - who also scored a stunning volley in the 3-0 win over Singapore on Friday - before Paek Kwang Min doubled their lead in the 62nd minute.
But, 10 minutes later, Thailand had the ball in the net after Arnon Prasongporn looked to have beaten the North Korean backline.
Myanmarese linesman Han Thein, however, ruled that Arnon was offside, a decision which video replays later showed was incorrect.
Aggrieved by the decision, and frustrated at being two goals down, some of the Thai players began lunging into nasty tackles, and the team imploded in the final 10 minutes.
Right back Sumana Salapphet and centre back Wudtichai Kumkeam both saw red within four minutes of each other, as Thailand ended the game with nine men.
Thai coach Khunnan Payong said: "Some of our players could not control their emotions.
"They are young, and we must give them time."
He added that he was disappointed about his side's disallowed goal, although he said he "respected" the officials' decision.
North Korea coach Kim Yong Phun, meanwhile, said he was "satisfied" at reaching next year's Finals in India, but suggested he was not entirely happy by their fuss-free qualifying campaign.
"For our preparation for the Finals, we are going to change some of the players," he said.
"We are also going to work harder on defending and counter-attacking."
When asked if North Korea, two-time winners of the AFC U-16 Championship, were targeting another title, he said: "Of course."
Khunnan said Kim's boys were good enough to taste glory again.
"They are a good team, and some of their boys are very obedient and professional, more than usual for players their age," said the Thai.
"We will learn from them and become better."
Thailand could still qualify for the Finals, if they finish as one of the best four group runners-up among 11 groups.
Their fate will be known on Sept 20, when the last of the qualifiers are played.