• Kyodo


Ri Ye Gyong and Ra Un Sim both struck twice as North Korea defeated Nadeshiko Japan 4-2 in the opening match of the women’s tournament at the East Asian Cup on Saturday.

Rika Masuya and Ami Sugita twice canceled out goals from Ri to bring Japan from behind, but two late strikes from the excellent Ra sealed victory for the North Koreans.

“We played the way we had pictured in our minds but gave away two cheap goals near the end,” said Japan coach Norio Sasaki, who is using this tournament to audition the next generation of Nadeshiko players and retained only six members of the squad that finished runner-up at the Women’s World Cup in Canada last month.

“That was a bit of a waste. They (North Korea) tricked us well but this is a good lesson for us.”

In a lively opening to the game being played in stifling heat, Sugita’s close-range effort was saved by North Korea goalkeeper Hong Myong Hui but it was the North Koreans that should have gone in front on 23 minutes.

Mai Kyokawa was booked after she was adjudged to have brought down Ra in the box, but Japan goalkeeper Erina Yamane guessed right and dived to her right to keep out Kim Un Ju’s penalty.

North Korea eventually broke the deadlock nine minutes before half time. Yun Song Mi curled a free kick into the box and Ri got an outstretched leg to the ball to poke past Yamane.

Hong was at full stretch to tip Saori Arimachi’s glancing header behind for a corner but Japan pulled level four minutes into the second half, Masuya collecting Megumi Kamionobe’s free kick and smashing her shot into the top corner.

North Korea regained the lead on the hour mark with a wonderfully worked goal. Kim Yun Mi found Ra with a superb pass and the striker squared the ball for Ri to drive into an unguarded net.

Japan hit back again 10 minutes later as Sugita rifled into the top corner from 25 meters out to give Hong no chance, only for Ra to turn inside two defenders and drill in North Korea’s third in the 79th before completing her brace with the fourth from the edge of the box in the 82nd.

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