China and South Ko­rea progress as Aus­tralia bounce back

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - SPORTS -

AL-AIN, United Arab Emi­rates: China and South Ko­rea reached the Asian Cup last 16 knock­out round Fri­day with wins over the Philip­pines and Kyrgyzstan re­spec­tively as hold­ers Aus­tralia bounced back to claim their first win of the tour­na­ment.

Mar­cello Lippi’s China side ne­go­ti­ated a po­ten­tially tricky clash with the Azkals thanks to a pair of high qual­ity strikes from Wu Lei and a late header from Yu Dabao to seal a 3-0 win and guar­an­tee a top two fin­ish in Group C.

“The vic­tory is, of course, very im­por­tant, how­ever the team’s per­for­mance is just as im­por­tant,” Lippi said. “I hope we can con­tinue in this man­ner be­cause once you have con­fi­dence in your­selves you know you can play against any op­po­nent in Asia.”

Wu put China in front five min­utes be­fore the break with an in­stinc­tive ef­fort from the edge of the area and dou­bled the lead in the 66th when he volleyed home Hao Jun­min’s free kick. Yu then nod­ded the ball over the line with his first touch after com­ing off the bench 10 min­utes from time when the Philip­pines failed to clear a cor­ner.

The Ko­re­ans, mean­while, had de­fender Kim Min-jae to thank for their 1-0 vic­tory over Kyrgyzstan which se­cures their place in the last 16 of the com­pe­ti­tion.

The Jeon­buk Mo­tors cen­ter-half put Paulo Bento’s team in front four min­utes be­fore half­time when he headed Hong Chul’s cor­ner through the legs of 21-year-old debu­tant goal­keeper Kut­man Kadyr­bekov.

South Ko­rea take on China in their fi­nal group game on Jan. 16 and, with both na­tions through to the next round, they will be play­ing to de­ter­mine who wins the group.

Ear­lier Fri­day, Aus­tralia eased to a 3-0 win over Pales­tine hav­ing lost their open­ing game of the tour­na­ment in Group B to Jor­dan last week­end. Jamie Ma­claren put the Soc­ceroos in front with a deft header off Tom Rogic’s lofted pass after 18 min­utes and Awer Ma­bil dou­bled the ad­van­tage from close range two min­utes later.

Sub­sti­tute Apos­to­los Gian­nou added the third in the fi­nal minute as Gra­ham Arnold’s team en­sured they go into next week’s meet­ing with Syria know­ing a win will clinch a place in the knock­out rounds.

Aus­tralia are sec­ond with three points, three points be­hind Jor­dan – who have al­ready reached the last 16 – with Syria and Pales­tine on a point apiece with one game left. The top two in each sec­tion qual­ify plus the four best third-placed teams. –

Ma­claren, sec­ond right, cel­e­brates with team­mates after scor­ing Aus­tralia’s open­ing goal against Pales­tine.

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