South Korea edges North Korea 1-0 at East Asian Championship

North Korea's goalkeeper Ri Myong Guk, left, and teammates react after their loss to South Korea in their soccer match of the East Asian Championship in Tokyo, Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017. (Fumine Tsutabayashi/Kyodo News via AP)
South Korea's players celebrate after their win over North Korea during their soccer match of the East Asian Championship in Tokyo, Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017. (Kazushi Kurihara/Kyodo News via AP)

TOKYO — South Korea got the better of North Korea on the soccer field on Tuesday, winning 1-0 at the East Asian Championship.

North Korea defender Ri Yong Chol scored an own-goal in the 64th-minute to give the South Koreans the victory.

The game was played amid escalating tensions between the two nations, with North Korea performing a series of missile tests in recent months and South Korea and the United States undertaking military exercises.

Both national anthems were observed respectfully at Ajinomoto Stadium.

"This was a special game for us, for the players, for the country," North Korea coach Jorn Andersen said. "I think in the first 30 minutes they were a little bit nervous, they were not as free as in the game against Japan."

North Korea, which lost to Japan 1-0 in its opening match, played an unchanged team against South Korea.

"We played a very good first game, but we don't have as many good players as Japan or South Korea or China," Andersen said. "We have a small group with not so many quality players, so it is always difficult for me to change too many players."

North Korean nationals are currently banned from entering Japan as part of sanctions against Pyongyang, but special visas were issued to the players at the Japanese embassy in Beijing this week.

The round-robin championship features Japan, China, North Korea and South Korea and concludes on Dec. 16.

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