Melbourne: China made a perfect start to its 2015 Asian Cup campaign with a pivotal 1-0 victory over Saudi Arabia in Brisbane Saturday.
Following an impressive individual performance, Yu Hai scored the game’s decisive goal, firing a deflected long-range free kick into the bottom corner with just nine minutes remaining to secure the victory, reports Xinhua.
Yu’s goal came just moments after Chinese keeper Wang Dalei saved Saudi Arabian striker Naif Hazazi’s penalty, which he’d won himself after being fouled by Ren Hang inside the box.
It meant that China followed in the footsteps of South Korea and Uzbekistan earlier in the day, after the pair also sealed 1-0 wins over Oman and North Korea respectively.
The Chinese side, led by the industrious Hao Junmin, started in positive fashion against Saudi Arabia. However, both sides found chances hard to come by in a dour first half.
Hao’s creativity eventually carved an opportunity for Wu Xi, who went past an opposition defender with neat footwork, before dragging his shot narrowly wide.
It proved the only shot on goal in the first 45 minutes, as both sides went into the break scoreless.
Saudi Arabia started the second period with far more intent, but still struggled to break down a stern Chinese back four. Eventually, on the hour mark, the pressure appeared to have paid dividends.
After being sent through on goal following a wonderful threaded pass by Salem Al Dawsari, Saudi striker Hazazi was hauled down by a rash challenge to receive a penalty.
However, Hazazi’s stuttering spot kick lacked conviction, with Wang Dalei able to make a routine save to keep the scores level.
As the game reached its final stages, it became stretched, with opportunities created regularly. Al Dawsari saw an effort saved comfortably by Wang Dalei on the counterattack, while Hazazi fired wide from a narrow angle.
But with nine minutes of normal time remaining, China claimed the lead. Yu Hai’s deflected 30-yard free kick wrong-footed Waleed Abdullah in Saudi Arabia’s goal, nestling in the bottom corner.
It delighted the 12,557-strong Brisbane crowd, which consisted mainly of a vocal Chinese supporter base, and provided a thrilling conclusion.
Despite Saudi Arabia’s best efforts, China would hold on for a potentially decisive victory, handing Alain Perrin’s side the perfect start to the tournament.