In the final match of the East Asian Cup, China continued their somewhat surprising performance to beat Australia 4-3, though Japan’s late winner against Korea mean that China fall to the runners up spot in the competition.
China made a number of changes in the roster, giving players who hadn’t gotten a start yet the chance to play and it paid off, with a number of the youngsters putting in good performances. Newer national team recruits Wu Lei and Sun Ke, arguably China’s player of the tournament, both contributed a goal, while veterans Yang Xu, deservedly back in the lineup, and Yu Dabao also contributed to China’s tally.
Indeed, it was Yu’s goal in the opening five minutes that got China off to a great start, with Sun Xiang bombing down the wing and providing a nice pass to Yu, who sweetly put it past the keeper. Thoughts of an easy win were quickly dashed when Australian Mooy ripped a long shot past Yang Zhi on the half hour mark and both sides settled in for a back and forth match.
Sun Ke broke the deadlock with another nice goal shortly after the start of the second half, putting China back in the lead. Zhang Xizhe, getting his first start for China and taking advantage of it, put in a top performance and during one series of play, came close to scoring twice. Yang Xu added a security goal in the 87th minute, a class finish after a touch pass from Yang Hao, it looked like China was going to cruise to victory. A minute later, youngster Wu Lei scored his first national team goal, a great individual effort.
However, after Wu’s goal, Yang Hao was taken off and Shi Ke was given his first national team minutes, a mistake that Fu Bo is probably regretting. The Aussies scored almost immediately, a mixup in defensive assignments and Zheng Zhi trying to play the ball instead of letting a charging Yang Zhi deal with it gifted the Socceroos their second goal. Moments before the match ended, a bad back pass by Shi was intercepted, Zhang Linpeng was caught out of position, and the Aussies pulled another back, making the match look a lot closer than it really was.
Considering China’s previous struggles, five points in three matches is a major improvement, granted the level of competition was watered down, but it should show that there are rays of light for fans of China.
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