China finish strongly to beat 10-man Kuwait
Second-half goals from defender Zhang Linpeng and midfielder Deng Zhuoxiang gave China the perfect start to their Asian Cup campaign as they beat highly-rated Kuwait 2-0 at the Al Gharafa Stadium on Saturday.
The more experienced Kuwaitis, who won both the West Asian Championship and the Gulf Cup last year, started as the stronger side against the youthful but more muscular Chinese, but the dismissal of defender Mesad Nada after 36 minutes left them exposed at the back and changed the balance of the match.
However, they were unfortunate not to be awarded a penalty after 12 minutes when China skipper Du Wei hacked down striker Bader Al Mutwa in the box and were also denied a goal when the ball appeared to cross the goalline just after halftime, but the Australian officials waved play on.
China scored their opening goal in the 58th minute after weathering a period of Kuwait pressure.
Linpeng's sweetly struck shot with the outside of his left boot from the edge of the box took a deflection off a defender leaving Yaqoub Al Taher stranded in goal.
Zhuoxiang doubled the lead with a well-struck inswigning free-kick nine minutes later.
"I was pleased with my team's performance but we struggled after we went down to 10 men," Kuwait's Serbian coach Goran Tufegdzic told reporters.
"I couldn't see if the ball had crossed the line but the players were convinced it did. As for goalline technology, well I know FIFA is thinking about this."
China's coach Gao Hongbo added: "The match changed after the red card. The Kuwaiti team started very well but after the sending off we controlled the match not them. It was a real test of Chinese football today and I am pleased we came through it."
It turned China's way after Nada was shown an immediate red card by Australian referee Ben Williams after sticking a foot into the groin of China striker Yang Xu as both fell to the ground by the touchline.
Xu was carried off on the electronic cart, while Nada, after writhing on the ground for a while, walked off disconsolately holding his head in his hands.
The result meant that China joined Uzbekistan at the top of Group A after the Central Asians beat hosts Qatar by the same score in Friday's opening match.
China, the East Asian champions, will take a huge stride to the last eight if they beat Qatar next Wednesday, while Kuwait, who will be without the suspended Nada, need to beat Uzbekistan on the same day to keep their hopes intact.
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