China 2 North Korea 1: Sun shines to complete clean sweep
China will head into their Asian Cup quarter-final with Australia on the back of a 100 per cent Group B record after claiming a history-making 2-1 win over North Korea in Canberra on Sunday.
The Chinese had already won their group, having opened the tournament with back-to-back triumphs, but Alain Perrin's men were relentless in the host nation's capital in front of a sell-out crowd at Canberra Stadium.
Led by Sun Ke's first-half double, China managed to win their opening three games at the Asian Cup finals for the first time.
Sun - one of three personnel changes made by Perrin for the final pool fixture – gave the group winners the lead after just 45 seconds and was at again three minutes before the break.
North Korea pulled a goal back via an own goal from Gao Lin in the second half to set-up a nervy finale but China held on for yet another victory, days out from Thursday's blockbuster at Suncorp Stadium against the Socceroos.
The result sent minnows North Korea home without a point.
With nothing at stake for both teams, China could have been excused for complacency but they wasted little time asserting their dominance, hitting the front with less than a minute on the clock.
A ball floated over the top from defender Mei Fang evaded North Korea's defenders and found its way to Sun, who poked the ball beyond Ri Myong-guk.
North Korea were not overawed by the early setback, slowly enjoying spells of possession, though China should have doubled their lead in the 14th minute.
Goalscorer Sun whipped in a delivery across the six-yard box but it fizzed past Gao with the goal at his mercy.
North Korea captain Pak Song-chol headed down the tunnel early, substituted nine minutes before half-time in what appeared to be a tactical decision by coach Jo Tong-sop.
The North Koreans had a golden opportunity to draw level in the 40th minute but Jong Il-gwan fired his effort over the crossbar following a neat one-two with O Hyok-chol.
And they were punished up the other end two minutes later as Sun nodded home his second of the half after North Korea failed to deal with Jiang Zhipeng's teasing cross.
China could have easily taken a three-goal lead into the break but Yu Hai's shot was cleared off the line by defender Jon Kwang-ik in the 44th minute.
North Korea emerged from the interval with renewed vigour and their efforts were rewarded 11 minutes into the second half, albeit courtesy of an own goal from Gao.
Pak Kwang-ryong picked out Il-gwan at the back post and the latter cut in and saw his deflected shot find the back of the net, which was eventually credited to Gao.
North Korea went desperately close to snatching a draw as Pak headed over the bar from close range and substitute So Hyonuk's shot rattled the crossbar, but they were ultimately condemned to a first pointless Asian Cup campaign.