Korea DPR and Korea Republic shared the spoils as the tenth encounter between the two countries ended in a 1-1 stalemate on Wednesday. With neither side able to gain the psychological edge ahead of their reunion in next month's 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifier™ in Pyongyang, the result will have left both of them some food for thought.
In a hard-fought match in chilly conditions in Chongqing, it was the South Koreans who took the lead through Yeom Ki Hun's 20th-minute free-kick. Despite the early blow - and playing almost half of the game with ten men following defender Pak Chol Jin's dismissal - the North Koreans managed to respond when Jong Tae Se scored the equaliser in the 72nd minute.
Korea DPR coach Kim Jong Hun was naturally delighted after the final whistle. "It was a good game to prepare for the World Cup preliminaries. I'd like to thank my players who fought very well, especially after we were down to ten men," he said.
"We will face the South again in the third round of qualifying in a month's time. So it was important that my players got a taste of how their opponents attack and defend, and the qualities of their individuals during the game tonight."
Korea Republic gaffer Huh Jung Moo, by contrast, was dissatisfied with the outcome. "The players of both teams tried hard to win. I'm not happy with the result but I have to say we did our best in the game," he commented.
"We couldn't convert all of our chances, while they took the only opportunity to score. Jong (Tae Se) is a quality player. Our defenders couldn't stop him this time but hopefully they won't let this happen again in the games to come."
Jong Tae Se has been arguably the talk of the city of Chongqing, the venue for the 2008 EAFF East Asian Championship in China PR. The 23-year-old was born to a South Korean family who immigrated to Japan, but he was educated in North Korean schools in Nagoya and Tokyo and then chose to play for Korea DPR after watching them lose 2-1 to Japan in qualifying for Germany 2006 three years ago.
The Kawasaki Frontale marksman, who also netted the opening goal against Japan in a 1-1 draw on Sunday, remained cautious despite Korea DPR's unbeaten run. "Korea Republic were the better team," he admitted.
"They were physically superior and dominated most of the game. But if we can play as a unit we'll be able to beat them at home in March," added the striker who has been dubbed the 'Rooney of North Korea' by the local media.
Korea DPR will host their southerly neighbours on 26 March in Pyongyang, with the return leg - the last fixture in Group 3 - to be played in Seoul on 22 June. Korea Republic and Korea DPR are joint-top of the table after their opening wins over Turkmenistan and Jordan respectively earlier this month.