Al Ain: Xiao Zhi came off the bench to inspire a second half come back for Marcello Lippi’s side on Sunday evening as China PR handed Thailand a 2-1 defeat to advance to the quarter-finals of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019.
Xiao’s goal – the 100th of the tournament so far – was key for a China side that dominated the second half but were unable to find a way past Siwarak Tedsungnoen in the Thai goal until the arrival of the veteran forward, who finally ended Thailand’s resistence.
In the end it was a deserved win for a Chinese side that welcomed back Wu Lei to the starting line-up after missing the 2-0 loss against Korea Republic with a shoulder injury while Thailand called up Supachai for the injured Adisak Kraisorn.
Play quickly switched to the other end, with Supachai pushing his shot wide of Yan’s goal after Teerasil Dangda’s return header found the Buriram United man just the right side of Zhang Linpeng.
Supachai made amends in the 31st minute, however, as he gave Thailand the lead. The Chinese defence failed to properly clear Teerathon’s corner and, after Thitiphan Puangchan’s shot ended up at Supachai’s feet. He made no mistake on the turn from seven yards out.
Five minutes later Supachai could have added a second, only to drag his attempt from distance across Yan’s goal as the Chinese struggled in their attempt to win their first AFC Asian Cup knockout game since 2004.
Lippi’s team grew increasingly desperate throughout the second half and Wu Lei’s lack of match sharpness was becoming ever more apparent. The 27-year-old somehow missed a straightforward chance three minutes after the interval from six yards out after fine approach play by Gao Lin down the left.
China continued to press, with Yu heading wide before Siwarak denied the Beijing Guoan man with his feet following Feng Xiaoting’s cross, but eventually the equaliser came as Lippi intervened from the bench.
Yu Dabao made way for Xiao Zhi and, within three minutes, China were level as Zheng Zhi clipped his cross in from the right and Xiao scored on the rebound after Siwarak had saved the striker’s initial downward header.
By the 71st minute China were in front when Gao Lin (pictured above) picked himself up to score from the spot after having his heels clipped in the area by Tanaboon, the veteran forward firing high into the top corner to give his team the lead their second half performance deserved.
China threatened to add to the scoreline as the Thais grew increasingly ragged, although a flying save from Yan deep into injury time following Pansa Hemviboon’s shot ensured the East Asians progressed.
Source : AFC Asian Football Confederation WEBSITE