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Yu Dabao guarantees China will stay alive in Asian Cup Qualifying

China 1-0 Iraq
Asian Cup 2015 Qualifying Matchday 2
Yu Dabao ’92

Attendance: 31,629

After 90 minutes of scoreless play, China got a lucky extra time goal that will at least ensure manager Jose Antonio Camacho keeps his job for one more match. The win creates a loggerhead in the group, with three teams sitting on three points (though Saudi Arabia will face off against Indonesia tomorrow).

Camacho considerably juggled the roster before the match, giving Sun Ke his first national team appearance on the right in midfield, moving Yu Hai into the middle and playing Gao Lin on the wing and using Zhao Peng and Li Xuepeng in central defense. Three points were a must for China if they wanted to improve their chances of reaching Australia, and the team came out on the attack. It didn’t last for long as Iraq settled down, encouraged by an Ali Adnan Kadhim shot from just over the halfway line that forced Zeng Cheng to make an acrobatic save.

The first half hour made to things apparent, despite Iraq’s skill elsewhere on the pitch, the Iraqi defense left something to be desired and that it would be a very physical match (three yellow cards were handed out in the first 20 minutes).

While things were generally even, China had the better of the chances toward the end of the half. In the 36th minute, Yang Xu was too creative for his own good, trying to use his heel to score off a corner but flubbing the shot. Then in the 43rd minute, an Iraqi defender couldn’t reach a beautiful Zhang Linpeng cross that fell directly to Gao Lin, who couldn’t bring the ball down cleanly.

A Chinese free kick just before half time would change the match, the referee yellow carded an Iraqi player for moving before the whistle, then Kadhim did the same thing on the retake and was shown his second yellow card, creating much controversy.

The red card, as well as a rain that started when the second half picked up and turned into a torrential downpour, killed the flow of the match. Iraq did what they could to hold onto a single point while China looked sluggish, creating few offensive chances and quickly getting stuck in the mud, almost literally.

Camacho tried to change that, bringing on Yu Hanchao and Yu Dabao for Yang Xu and Sun Ke, but the Dalian pair couldn’t do anything to make the difference. As it looked like the match was destined to end in a disappointing draw for China, the referee declared a shocking five minutes of added time and China won a corner kick. On the ensuing corner, Zhang Linpeng got a piece of the ball (or at least prevented the Iraqis from getting to it) and the ball fell to Yu Dabao at close range, who knocked it past the keeper, causing pandamonium in Changsha.

Coming away with all three points, Camacho has to feel extremely lucky, as the Iraqi’s deserved more for their fight. Then again, many said China was unlucky not to earn a point against Saudi Arabia, so that’s just how football goes sometimes. The team has some friendlies over the summer, but their next qualifying match will be on the road against Indonesia in October.

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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