Chinese team is lucky, to win this crucial match.
Changsha: Substitute strike Yu Dabao came off the bench to score three minutes into stoppage time and secure China their first three points of the qualifying competition for the 2015 AFC Asian Cup with a 1-0 win over former champions Iraq in Group C on Friday.
Yu scored from close range to give the Chinese the win over an Iraqi side that had battled through the entire second half with 10 men and looked to have done enough to earn a point in the torrential rain at the Helong Sports Centre.
But Yu’s goal means China now have three points from their opening two matches after losing on Matchday 1 of the qualifiers in February to Saudi Arabia in Dammam.
“Today we won this together,” said China coach Jose Antonio Camacho. “We had great fans, and we fought until the last second. It was great.
“It was such a difficult game, with such pouring rain. The best part was our players’ never-give-up spirit. We deserved the win. We knew the way Iraq played their game, including their set-piece strategies. They have some very talented players, so we had to be patient and create chances for goals.
“Now we have a better chance to qualify. We need to control the game better, to create more goal scoring opportunities. Iraq can easily score goals even when they are only given one chance.”
The pressure was on Camacho going into the game but both teams struggled in a first half of limited chances, the most notable when Yang Xu forced Iraqi goalkeeper Noor Sabri to push the ball around the post in the 18th minute.
The outcome of the game, however, turned on events in first-half stoppage time after China had been awarded a free kick on the edge of the Iraq penalty area.
Referee Ben Williams signalled that the kick be retaken after Sun Ke’s initial effort went over the bar as Saif Salman was booked for encroaching.
Seconds later, Sun’s next attempt was blocked by Ali Adnan Kadhim, who was too close to the kick and for which Williams pulled out the yellow card again. This time, though, the red card quickly followed as Kadhim had previously been booked in the 21st minute for a foul on Sun Ke in open play.
That should have seen the Chinese push for the win in the second half but, with the Iraqis packing the defence and conditions worsening due to a torrential downpour that lasted throughout the final 45 minutes, the home side struggled.
It looked as if the Iraqis were going to hang on for a well-deserved point until three minutes into stoppage time when Chen Tao’s corner was bundled into Yu’s path by Zhang Linpeng and the Dalian Aerbin striker steered the ball over the line to secure the win for China.
“I’m satisfied with my players’ performance, after all the weather was horrible and the China national team had a very strong home atmosphere,” said Iraq coach Vladimir Petrovic. “Under these circumstances the result is acceptable.
“I only took over this team 12 days ago and didn’t have much time to get ready, so I kept theformation used in the Gulf Cup. I am happy that with such a short preparation time, my team could still put on such a good performance.
“I will have more time to get to know my team better, and I believe the future is promising.”