Football: North Korea bag Asian Cup spot after sinking HK; Philippines and Yemen qualify for first time

Players from the Philippines celebrate their win after the 2019 AFC Asian Cup Qualification Final Round soccer match between the Philippines and Tajikistan at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila, Philippines, on  March 27, 2018.
Players from the Philippines celebrate their win after the 2019 AFC Asian Cup Qualification Final Round soccer match between the Philippines and Tajikistan at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila, Philippines, on March 27, 2018.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SEOUL (AFP) - North Korea qualified for the 2019 Asian Cup for the third consecutive tournament with a 2-0 victory over Hong Kong in Pyongyang on Tuesday.

Needing just a point at the Kim Il Sung Stadium to book a place in the United Arab Emirates in January, first-half goals from Jong Il Gwan and Pak Kwang Ryong sealed the place for the 1966 World Cup quarter-finalists.

It was Jorn Andersen's final game in charge of the North Koreans and the Norwegian coach heads home on a winning note after arriving in the country in 2016.

Hong Kong struggled to recover from an early injury to defender Helio Goncalves and failed to seriously trouble the hosts. The visitors finish third in Group A and miss the chance to return to the continental competition for the first time since 1968.

Lebanon top the group, with Malaysia languishing in last place.

Only two other spots at the tournament had yet to be allocated going into the final match day of qualification, with both of those in Group F.

The Philippines took one to qualify for the Asian Cup for the first time in the country's history, with a 2-1 come-from-behind win over Tajikistan in Manila.

Tajikistan were looking good to make their continental debut when Akhtam Nazarov gave the team the lead after 64 minutes from the penalty spot.

Ten minutes later, Kevin Ingreso headed home to level for the Philippines, who then made sure of the place in next year's tournament with a last-minute penalty that was converted by Phil Younghusband.

That victory ensured that Yemen will finish second behind the Philippines and above Tajikistan to also qualify for a first-ever Asian Cup.

The tournament will be the first to feature 24 teams, expanded from 16 at the 2015 edition which was hosted in Australia.