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China and New Zealand play to a draw in Shanghai

China 1 – 1 New Zealand
International Friendly
Zhao Peng 31′; Wood 43′

China, playing its last match of 2012, faced off against New Zealand in Shanghai last night and played to a tight 1-1 draw, with both goals coming in the first half. The match was very similar to the last time these two sides faced off, last year in Wuhan, a match that ended with the same score.

The uncharacteristic cold in Shanghai may have played a role in the match, as New Zealand only came out for a very short pre-match warmup. Despite Guangzhou Evergrande having the big CFA Cup final second leg match coming up this weekend, Camacho continued his policy of favoring players from the Cantonese side, starting 7 of them. That said, the star of the match was the one non-Evergrande midfielder, Yu Hanchao. The Liaoning attacker was responsible for much of China’s attack and played a part in the opening goal.

The home side looked strong for much of the first half, with a few excellent chances, including a good run by Gao Lin to beat the offside trap. Unfortunately, Gao’s finish was miles off target. On the half hour mark, a seeing eye New Zealand free kick led to a great chance with a Kiwi player all alone on the back post, but he tripped over his own feet and blew the shot. China immediately turned it into a chance to counter, Yu Hai playing a ball to Yu Hanchao, who had a good break though the chasing defender did a good job to block his shot out of bounds. Yu Hanchao took the resulting corner kick, finding the head of Zhao Peng. Zhao’s long header was well placed, just squeezed past the near post defender and in.

While China looked the better side for much of the first half, the Kiwis had plenty of chances of their own and were finally able to score just before the half. Their breakthrough would also come from a set piece, a free kick which Wang Dalei overplayed and Sun Xiang was stuck in place, allowing Chris Wood to knock in a header for the equalizer.

The second half saw many substitutions by both sides and a very different pace of play, with New Zealand looking the stronger team. Wang Dalei had a chance to make up for his earlier mistake by making a wonderful, fingertip save from point blank range on Marco Rojas. Up until that point, the youngster Rojas was one of the Kiwis’ best players, using his speed to create opportunities on the wing. Just past the hour mark, Yu Hanchao had the best chance of the half when he intercepted a Kiwi pass and created a break, though Gao proceeded to knock it into row z from a tight angle instead of passing.

The draw leaves plenty of reasons for optimism among Chinese fans, a decent ending to a not-so-good 2012.

Brandon Chemers aka B. Cheng aka A Modern Lei Feng – is a name which may be familiar to many in the Chinese blogosphere. He currently serves as Editor-in-Chief for Wild East Football and is one of the lonely souls writing about Chinese football in English for the last 10 years. Chemers' credentials are second to none – his former blog focused not only on the fortunes of his beloved Beijing Guoan FC, but a multitude of other aspects of Beijing life. He’s deservedly built a reputation in the Chinese blogosphere as an insightful observer of not only Chinese football, but also the wider picture of life in modern China and its many layers. For WEF, beyond writing about Guoan, he often focuses on fan culture and the business of Chinese football.

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