SYDNEY (AP) -- Igor Sergeev headed in the only goal during a rain-sodden second half to give Uzbekistan a 1-0 win over North Korea on Saturday in the opening Group B match at the Asian Cup.
The Uzbeks were the dominant side, and almost opened the scoring after 17 minutes after a tidy move started by Server Djeparov.
The two-time Asian Player of the Year found Sergeev, who in turn fed Sanjar Tursunov. He crossed to the back post where Timur Kapadze rose highest but his header bounced off the post after a deflection from a North Korean defender.
North Korea keeper Ri Myong Guk did well to keep out Vitaly Denisov's skidding, long-range strike in the 52nd but was powerless 10 minutes later when Sergeev nodded home the winner from Djeparov's cross from the left in the 62nd.
Pak Kwang Ryong had North Korea's best chance in the first half, but couldn't quite direct his header on target in the 32nd.
There was a decent amount of support for the North Koreans -- predominantly from locals who appeared to have adopted the nation for this clash -- and both North Korean and Korean unification flags were visible in the stands.
The North Koreans had a chance to equalize in the dying minutes but Ignatiy Nesterov produced a superb reflex save to ensure Uzbekistan emerged victorious.
Uzbekistan is making its sixth appearance at the Asian Cup, and reached the semifinals in 2011 before a 6-0 hammering from Australia.
North Korea made it to the semifinals at its first trip to the Asian Cup in 1980, but hasn't progressed from the group stage in either of its last two appearances, in 1992 and 2011.
Both countries play again Wednesday, when Uzbekistan take on China in Brisbane and North Korea faces Saudi Arabia in Melbourne.
Uzbekistan: Ignatiy Nesterov, Shavkatjon Mulladjanov, Anzur Ismailov, Azizbek Haydarov, Server Djeparov, Odil Akhmedov (Sardor Rashidov, 72), Igor Sergeev (Bakhodir Nasimov, 89), Sanjar Tursunov (Jamshid Iskanderov, 93), Timur Kapadze, Vitaliy Denisov, Akmal Shorakhmedov.
North Korea: Ri Myong Guk, Jang Song Hyok, Jon Kwang Ik, Ryang Yong Gi, Pak Song Chol, Pak Kwang Ryong, Jong Il Gwan, Jang Kuk Chol, Cha Jong Hyok, So Hyon Uk (Om Chol Song, 65), Ri Yong Jik.