China rallies to hold Australia in FIFA World Cup Asian qualifiers

(Xinhua) 14:37, November 17, 2021

Players of China reacts after a Group B match between China and Australia of 2022 FIFA World Cup Asian qualifiers in Sharjah, the United Arab Emirates, on Nov. 16, 2021. (Xinhua)

SHARJAH, UAE, Nov. 16 (Xinhua) -- Wu Lei scored from a spot-kick as China came back from one goal down to hold Australia 1-1 in the final round of 2022 FIFA World Cup Asian qualifiers here on Tuesday.

"We played much better than the first leg match when we lost 3-0 to Australia. I told my players to fight for every ball to create more difficulties for the opponents before the match, and they did it. My players didn't give up and I am very proud of them," Chinese head coach Li Tie told the post-match press conference.

China was fifth in the six-team group with four points from five games ahead of Tuesday's tie, while Australia stood second with ten points. Looking to win the match and keep their World Cup hopes alive, Li Tie fielded four forwards in the starting line-up against the Socceroos.

Both teams had several chances in the early stages but it was Australia who broke the deadlock in the 38th minute when Mitchell Duke headed home after a cross from Martin Boyle.

Six minutes later, the Australian side was close to doubling the lead, but Mathew Leckie's close-range one-on-one shot was denied by Chinese goalkeeper Yan Junling.

China's center-back Jiang Guangtai suffered from a thigh injury and had to be substituted by Wang Gang right before halftime.

In the second half, Wu Lei equalized for China in the 70th minute with a penalty kick after a VAR check on James Jeggo's handball inside the box.

The Chinese team then geared up to create several goal-scoring opportunities in the last twenty minutes. Luo Guofu's right-footed shot sailed narrowly off the far post, while the substitute forward Ba Dun scored a goal which was disallowed due to handball in the build-up.

"It is disappointing result for us," said Australia head coach Graham Arnold. "The positive thinking is that we didn't lose the game and got one point. It's a ten-game tournament and every point counts."

The result lifted Australia to 11 points, five adrift of Group B leader Saudi Arabia, who beat the tail-ending Vietnam 1-0 earlier on Tuesday. Japan climbed up to second place in the group with 12 points after a 1-0 away victory over Oman, who has eight points to rank fourth.

China's tally of five points means it still has an arduous task ahead with four games remaining.

"It's not easy for my players as they have to overcome many obstacles to play abroad. There is no doubt that we are not good enough, but we will do our best to improve and try to get better and better," Li noted.

China will next face Japan away on January 27, 2022. 


(Web editor: Zhong Wenxing, Liang Jun)


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