(ATTN: ADDS player's comments at bottom)
By Yoo Jee-ho and Oh Seok-min
INCHEON, Sept. 29 (Yonhap) -- North Korea edged South Korea 2-1 to reach the gold medal match in women's football at the Asian Games on Monday.
North Korea now will face Japan in a rematch of the 2010 Asiad final, where Japan prevailed 1-0 at the time.
Substitute Ho Un-byol scored the winner against South Korea moments from the whistle to put North Korea in its second straight Asiad final.
North Korea has now beaten South Korea for the 13th time in 15 all-time meetings so far, including in all five matches at Asian Games. South Korea was trying to win its first Asiad gold in women's football.
South Korea opened the scoring 12 minutes into the match, as Jung Seol-bin's floating free kick bounced in off the hands of the diving goalkeeper, Hong Myong-hui.
North Korean footballers Ho Un-byol, far left, and Ra Un-sim celebrate Ho's goal as South Korea's Ji So-yun looks on at Munhak Stadium in Incheon on Sept. 29, 2014. (Yonhap)
North Korean forward Wi Jong-sim hit the right goal post in the 20th minute after speeding past defender Lim Seon-joo. Jon Myong-hwa hit the left post two minutes later, as North Korea kept the pressure on the befuddled South Korean defense.
The North's efforts finally led to the equalizer in the 36th minute. Wi drove down the right flank and sent a rolling cross toward the middle for Ri Ye-gyong. The South Koreans failed to clear the ball out of harm's way as Ri got just enough of the pass to put it past goalkeeper Kim Jung-mi.
The two sides had chances around the hour mark, with Kim Yun-mi for North Korea and Jeon Ga-eul for the South both missing the target.
South Korea controlled the pace most of the second half and nearly won the match in regulation, as Ji So-yun's right-foot strike rang off the crossbar in the 88th. Jeon Ga-eul tried to put in the rebound but rolled it wide of the left post.
Just as the match seemed destined for overtime, Ho capitalized on a fatal defensive miscue by Lim Seon-joo and put the ball into the gaping South Korean net.
Kim Kwang-min, the winning coach, said his players bounced back nicely after giving up the first goal.
"I think our players might have panicked after giving up the first-half goal," Kim observed. "But we became more aggressive and created scoring opportunities later. In the second half, our players were running on fumes and didn't play the way we intended to play. Ultimately, we won the match and earned the right to play in the final."
Looking ahead to the final, Kim said he will not alter his game plan.
The defeat reduced South Korean head coach Yoon Duk-yeo to tears afterward. The emotional coach congratulated the victorious side and thanked his players for their efforts.
"Even though we lost, I think our players really did their best," Yoon said. "The North Koreans played a quick transition game and did a good job of putting pressure on us. I think this is why they've done so well internationally."
Yoon's starting forward, Ji So-yun, also choked back tears afterward. The Chelsea Ladies star will re-join her English club after playing in the quarterfinals and the semifinals, with her pro team under no obligation to make her available for the Asian Games.
Ji said she was disappointed to leave the national team before the bronze medal match and urged her teammates to try to finish the Asian Games on a high note.
"We gave everything we had over 90 minutes, and we all deserve accolades," Ji said. "I think we had momentum on our side in the second half and saw that their players were exhausted. We made the mistake at the end but overall, we played the way we wanted to. I am leaving soon and I hope everyone here plays hard for the bronze medal."