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China, South Korea make the grade; Australia roar

China, South Korea make the grade; Australia roar

DPA
Abu Dhabi
China and South Korea scored wins on Friday to ensure qualification into the Asian Cup knockout phase while Australia cruised to a 3-0 win over Palestine in Dubai to breathe life into their title defence.
In a battle between Marcello Lippi’s China and Sven-Goran Eriksson’s Philippines, it was the Italian’s side that triumphed 3-0 in Abu Dhabi thanks to a superb double from Wu Lei and Yu Dabao’s header.
China top Group C with a perfect six points before their final game against South Korea, who beat Kyrgyzstan 1-0 in Al Ain to maintain their own 100-per-cent record in second.
The Philippines are last without a point in their tournament debut, below Kyrgyzstan on goal difference.
Champions Australia were stunned by Jordan in their opening game but first-half goals from Jamie Maclaren and Awer Mabil ensured they bounced back in style. Substitute Apostolos Giannou completed the rout.
Qualified Jordan top Group B on six points, Australia moved second on three while Palestine and Syria have one each.
Lippi and Eriksson have a wealth of honours between them, including the Italian’s 2006 World Cup triumph, but the latest players receiving their coaching wisdom produced a scrappy start to the match.
China gradually took control with the creative Hao Junmin increasing in influence. Wu Xi headed wide from his cross, but in the 41st minute, Wu Lei made no mistake, collecting his pass and rifling a tremendous shot high into the top corner.
Keeper Michael Falkesgaard denied Wu Lei a second after the break before his stunning volley from Hao’s clipped free kick settled matters midway through the half.
“Very positive,” was Lippi’s view. “We played a great match. We were very good with good quality, very aggressive.
“We didn’t give too many chances to the opposition and we created many chances to score. I hope we can always play like today.”
Philippines forward Javier Pinto wasted their best chance when the game was goal-less with a clumsy touch, and Kevin Ingresso’s long-range bid for an equalizer was acrobatically tipped over by Yan Junling
China ended the game much the stronger and Falkesgaard’s point-blank save robbed Wu Lei of his hat-trick before Yu headed the third from the resultant corner.
“It’s strange, I’m rather proud of our team even though we lost 3-0,” said Eriksson. “I think we’ve shown in two games we can play football.”
The Philippines could still qualify as a third-placed team, but Eriksson admitted this was only a “small hope.”
Australia coach Graham Arnold made three changes, with winger Chris Ikonomidis and midfielder Jackson Irvine replacing Robbie Kruse and Massimo Luongo. Josh Risdon came in for injured full back Josh Risdon.
Striker Maclaren had been another contender to be dropped, and an air-kick in just three minutes would have done little for his confidence.
But in the 18th minute, he glanced Tom Rogic’s cross into the bottom corner to break his international scoring duck in his 10th cap.
Just two minutes later, Mabil doubled the lead by converting an Ikonomidis cross at the back post.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Maclaren told Fox Sports. “But I’ve just stayed on my path.
“It’s not that relieving, only because we knew what we had to do today, that’s win the game.
Mabil blazed over and Abdallah Jaber turned a cross onto his own bar before Giannou headed in a short corner routine in the last minute.
Noureddine Ould Ali’s Palestine could still qualify with victory over Jordan on Tuesday. Australia are not yet safe before concluding against Syria, where they will be without defender Trent Sainsbury due to collecting two yellow cards.
Kyrgyzstan dropped goalkeeper Pavel Matiash after a poor opening game against China, and youngster Kutman Kadyrbekov impressed on his debut, even if he was lucky South Korea’s Lee Chung Yong somehow missed an open goal.
He was finally beaten by Kim Min Jae heading in a 41st-minute corner before enjoying second-half fortune when Hwang Ui Jo’s header struck the underside of the bar and bounced off the line.
But Kyrgyzstan were limited going forward and could not trouble South Korea, who are expected to be boosted by the arrival of star forward Son Heung Min from Tottenham Hotspur as the tournament progresses.

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