SEOUL (AFP) – North Korea edged out South Korea 2-1 in an inter-Korean football showdown at the Women's East Asian Cup here on Sunday.
Ho Eun-Byol grabbed two goals in quick succession during the first half at the Seoul World Cup Stadium, as North Korea quickly erased a one-goal deficit and beat South Korea for the 10th time in their last twelve showdowns.
The match took place against a backdrop of lingering tensions on the divided Korean Peninsula.
Both teams had a cautious start to the match, before Kim Soo-Yun put South Koreans on the board in the 26th minute.
The midfielder pounced on a loose ball after a goalmouth scramble and rolled it past Hong Myong-Hui into the North Korean net.
But the visitors quickly regained control. In the 36th, Ho equalised on a rebound following a brief period of dramatic goal-line mayhem near the South Korean net.
Goalkeeper Kim Jung-Mi and defender Lim Seon-Joo each turned away a shot at the line before the hosts succumbed to the North Korean pressure.
Ho was at it again the very next minute, this time heading in a Kim Su-Gyong cross from the right wing and catching Kim out of position in the South Korean goal.
South Korea looked to attack early in the second half. Four minutes after the intermission, Ji So-Yun headed a corner that went right at Hong in the North Korean net.
In the 65th, Ji's curling free kick from the left side of the box sailed wide of the far post. Two minutes later, Jeon Ga-Eul launched a shot from the right that was punched out by Hong.
With South Koreans running on fumes, North Korea held on for the narrow victory.
The North Korean women's football squad made their first trip across the heavily-fortified border since the 2005 East Asian Cup.
North Korea entered the tournament ranked ninth in the world, seven spots ahead of South Korea.
Following months of tension on the Korean peninsula government officials from both sides have engaged in talks to help reduce animosity, with little progress, months after Pyongyang carried out its third nuclear test and made bellicose threats against South Korea and the U.S. on a near-daily basis.
North Korean players drew scattered cheers from some 6,500 fans at the 66,000-seat venue as they were introduced at the start of the game.
About 20 Japanese residents holding North Korean passports, whose entry was granted by the South Korean foreign ministry last week, also cheered on the North Korean team.
In addition, dozens of members of a South Korean pro-unification civic group attended the game.
The two Koreas have marched as one nation under the unification flag, in blue and white, at past Olympic Games and Asian Games.
At the start of the second half, some members of the group briefly chanted, "Unification of the Koreas".
According to an official from the South's Korea Football Association, the group also hoisted a sign promoting unification before police forced the activists to pull it down.