Mun helps Korea move closer to neighbours

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The Independent Football

North Korea boosted their chances of reaching their first World Cup finals in 44 years after beating Saudi Arabia 1-0 in Pyongyang yesterday.

Mun In-guk's well-taken goal from close range 28 minutes into the Asia Group Two qualifier was enough to earn the hosts three points against a misfiring Saudi team without four regular starters.

Wearing gloves and roll-neck sweaters to keep out the cold, the Saudis looked dangerous but failed to get past a resolute North Korean defence.

North Korea had the best of the early exchanges and went ahead when Hong Yong-jo's elaborate back heel found its way through the Saudi defence and into the path of Mun, who beat the onrushing goalkeeper.

Former Asian player of the year Yasser Al-Kahtani returned from injury and was a constant threat to the Koreans, who countered a Saudi second-half onslaught with a late flurry of attacks.

Seven minutes from time, Al-Kahtani came close to securing a point when his superb shot from outside the penalty area was spectacularly turned away by Ri Myong-guk.

The victory gave the North Koreans seven points, one behind leaders South Korea, who drew with Iran.

In international friendlies last night Iceland, who are in Group Nine, Scotland's group, beat Liechtenstein 2-0 in La Manga, with Eidur Gudjohnsen scoring in the 48th minute to add to Arnar Smarason's 28th-minute goal.

Moldova drew 1-1 with Macedonia. Goran Pandev gave Macedonia the lead in the 54th minute before Valeriu Andronic equalised six minutes later.