South Korea stayed on course for the title despite being held by DPR Korea 1-1 at the East Asian Football Championship (EAFC) in Chongqing, Southwest China on Wednesday.
The under-strength South Korea, who beat China 3-2 in the their opening match, went ahead after 20 minutes when forward Yeom Ki Hun capitalized on a free kick on the edge of the area to blast a bullet shot into the net.
The DPR Korea equalized in the 73rd when their leading forward Jong Tae Se burst past two defenders after meeting a tricky through ball and easily rounded the South Korean goalkeeper from the right to calmly steer the ball into the net.
Then DPR Korean keeper Ri Myong Guk became the dominant figure of the field as he made several brilliant saves to block South Korea's wild and sharp attack.
"I'm not satisfied with the result today as we wasted a lot of good score opportunities. However, both sides spared no efforts to deliver a wonderful match tonight. We will prepare carefully for the next match against Japan for the title," said the South Korean coach Huh Jung Mao, who took the job after Dutchman Pim Verbeek's resignation last year.
The neighboring opponents will meet each other again soon as both teams were selected in the same group of the preliminary round for the 2010 World Cup qualifier.
With one match remaining, South Korea shared the top berth with Japan. DPR Korea had two points and China stood forth with two straight defeats.
The biennial East Asian Football Championship, which was inaugurated in 2003, was postponed to this year to make way for last year's Asian Cup. The participating teams are DPR Korea, Japan, South Korea and China.
(Xinhua News Agency February 21, 2008)