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Football: Asian Cup, Group B – China, Uzbekistan open with wins

China beat Saudi Arabia 1-0 through Yu Hai’s deflected free-kick. Photo: AFCAsianCup.com.

China beat Saudi Arabia 1-0 in Brisbane through Yu Hai’s deflected free-kick. Photo: AFCAsianCup.com.

January 10, 2015: China joined Uzbekistan at the top of Group B with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia at Brisbane Stadium in the third of three AFC Asian Cup matches on Saturday.

 

Uzbekistan earlier beat DPR Korea 1-0 in Saturday’s second match, after Korea Republic beat Oman 1-0 in a Group A encounter (sport-asia.com/football-cho-chomps-as-korea-fly-off-to-winning-start-in-asian-cup/).

 

In Brisbane, Yu Hai’s late, deflected free-kick proved to be the lone goal of the match as Saudi Arabia paid the price for Naif Hazazi failing to convert a second-half penalty against Alain Perrin’s side.

 

Saudi Arabia enjoyed the better moments early on with their technique-oriented game, seeing more time on the ball and pushing China deep into their own half. However, the three-time champions failed to translate possession into opportunities and could not produce a single shot on target before the intermission.

 

China held firm at the back and came close in the 43rd minute when Wu Xi ran through midfield before firing narrowly wide of the left-hand post from the edge of the box.

 

The second half opened gingerly before Saudi Arabia kicked it into a higher gear on the hour mark, as Hazazi broke free down the inside left channel and was awarded a penalty after defender Ren Hang brought him down. Keeper Wang Dalei bailed out his teammate by diving to his left to save Hazazi’s casual effort as the Chinese half of the crowd at Brisbane Stadium erupted in joy.

 

China nearly stung Saudi Arabia right away at the opposite end, with Ren forcing a two-handed stop from Waleed Abdullah with a close-range header towards the bottom-right corner of the net.

 

The deadlock was finally broken after 80 minutes when Yu’s free-kick, from outside the box, took a wicked deflection off a defender to wrong-foot Abdullah who, despite a desperate attempt to keep out the Guizhou Renhe midfielder’s effort, saw the ball skip into his net.

 

In the earlier Group B encounter Uzbekistan beat DPR Korea 1-0 through Igor Sergeev’s fine 62nd-minute header from a pinpoint left-wing cross by captain Server Djeparov at a rain-lashed Stadium Australia in Sydney. However, Uzbekistan still required a stunning save by Ignatiy Nesterov from Pak Kwang-ryong’s header in the last play of the match to come away with all three points.

 

Mirdjalal Kasimov’s side are looking to build on the country’s semi-final finish in Qatar in 2011. Both China, who are looking to return to the quarter-finals for the first time since hosting the competition in 2004, and Saudi Arabia failed to qualify for the knockout phase four years ago.

 

Source: Shintaro Kano / AFC Asian Cup (www.afcasiancup.com); Editing by SportAsia

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