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Disaster in Dubai: Lippi resigns after China lose 2-1 to Syria

A late own goal from Zhang Linpeng saw China crash to a calamitous 2-1 defeat to Syria in World Cup qualifying. The defeat was a major blow to China’s qualifying campaign and subsequently resulted in Marcello Lippi resigning as national team coach.

Prior to the match there had been some controversy surrounding the limited ticket allocation for Chinese fans. For the few hundred Chinese fans that were able to attend however, this was certainly a night to forget. 

Lippi persisted with the same starting eleven that were held to a 0-0 draw by the Philippines a month ago. And as a full moon shone over the Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium, China got a off to a relatively strong start. The opening stages of the match were fairly open, with both teams looking to get forward and test the each other’s defences. China had a good early goal-scoring opportunity when Wu lei got on the end of a long ball from Wang Gang but the Espanyol man fired just over.

This chance seemed to buoy China, who enjoyed a strong passage of play shortly afterwards. Despite some extended periods of possession however, they were not able to carve out any further chances. China were then given a sharp jolt on nineteen minutes. When Syria broke quickly and Osama Omari headed home a Mahmoud Al-Mawas cross, to give Syria the lead.

Omari puts Syria ahead

After conceding China managed keep a cool head and continued to take the game to Syria. This composure payed off, when a hashed clearance from Kamel Hamisha allowed Wu Xi to play in Wu Lei. Who brought the game level with an immaculate finish, deftly slotting the ball between legs of the oncoming Syrian goalkeeper. 

As the half-worn China continued to look enterprising going forward but began to look increasingly shakey at the back.  China consistently struggled to contain the pace and skill of Al Mawas who was regularly able to cut inside from the right-hand side of midfield and cause problems for China’s back four.

In the second-half Syria came out much stronger and began to take control of the midfield. Initially Syria struggled to convert this possession into solid chances and were largely restricted to long range efforts. Gradually however they began to impose themselves on the game more and more and started to create some more solid chances.

On sixty minutes, Zhu Chenjie was somewhat harshly judged to have fouled Omar Al-Soma. With the subsequent free-kick Al-Soma went straight for goal with a rasping shot which Yan Junling could only parry away. A few minutes later, Al-Soma got on the end of a long-ball and was able to get the better of Zhu Chenjie and fire off a shot from close range, forcing a good save from Yan Junling.

At this point China were clearly on the back foot and Lippi brought on Li Ke for Yang Xu in an attempt to steady the ship.  Initially this change seemed to work and China seemed to be steadily regaining a foothold, when on the seventy-sixth minute disaster struck. Zhang Linpeng made a botched attempt to cut out a cross from Omar Kharbin and turned the ball into his own net.

This goal left China somewhat shell shocked. For the remaining quarter of an hour or so, China tried to find a way back into the game but struggled to break down a stubborn Syrian defence. China had some half-chances, Elkeson lashed a shot over the bar on the eighty-third minute. And on the ninetieth minute Wei Shihao found himself just inside the Syrian box with plenty of time and space but completely squandered the opportunity with a totally miss-hit pass.

Overall though on the night, China were simply not good enough. This seemed more than obvious to Lippi who announced his resignation in the post-match press conference, stating that “I was well paid and I take the full responsibility. I am now announcing my resignation and I will be no longer the coach of Team China.”

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