HWASEONG, South Korea, July 25 (Yonhap) -- North Korea held the favored Japan to a scoreless draw in the women's match at the East Asian Cup tournament here on Thursday.
At Hwaseong Stadium, south of Seoul, North Korea kept the reigning FIFA Women's World Cup champion at bay in the back-and-forth encounter at the regional tournament.
Japan, the two-time defending East Asian Cup champ, entered the competition ranked third in the world, six spots ahead of North Korea on the FIFA women's rankings.
North Korea will close out the tournament against China on Saturday, while Japan's final match will be against South Korea on the same day. Both games will be held in Seoul.
The North Korean women's team made its first trip to South Korea since the 2005 East Asian Cup and defeated South Korea 2-1 last Sunday.
North Korea looked to be in control for most of the first half, with Japan failing to register its first shot on net until 39th minute.
In the 31st, Choe Un-ju took a feed from Kim Un-ju just under the arc but missed the far post with her shot.
Then in the final minute of the opening half, Ri Ye-gyong curled a shot off the crossbar from the right edge of the box.
Japan had more life in the second half and had its first serious chance of the match in the 47th. Nahomi Kawasumi set up Yuki Ogimi in the point blank range, but goalkeeper Hong Myong-hui made a diving save on the low, hard shot.
In the 65th, Rumi Utsugi let one go from the top of the arc but Hong made a relatively easy save.
Four minutes later, Kim Yun-mi tried to give North Korea a lead after stealing a pass deep in the Japanese zone, but Ayumi Kaihori stopped the low shot at the near post.
Japan took over in the latter part of the match and made last-ditch efforts to get the three points against the fatigued North Koreans. In the 83rd, Mana Iwabuchi dribbled past a defender for a rolling shot, but Hong made a desperate save with her toes to keep it a scoreless affair.
Later on Thursday, Japan defeated Australia 3-2 for its first win of the tournament.
Yuya Osako broke the 2-2 deadlock with his second goal of the match in the 79th minute, just a minute after Tomi Juric had evened the score for Australia.
In an encounter with China last Sunday, Japan had blown a two-goal second-half lead and ended up with a 3-3 draw. But on Thursday, Osako, playing in his first international match, made sure Japan would earn the victory.
Fellow international rookie Manabu Saito had Japan's first goal in the first half. Mitchell Duke was the other goal scorer for Australia.
The men's tournament will conclude on Sunday, when South Korea hosts Japan and Australia faces China in Seoul.
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