Group A: China PR 3-0 Oman
Changzhou: Host nation China PR began their AFC U23 Championship 2018 campaign in fine fashion on Tuesday thanks to a comfortable 3-0 win over Oman at the Changzhou Olympic Sports Center.
Goals from Yang Liyu, Li Xiaoming and Wei Shihao proved the difference on a bitterly cold afternoon, as China laid down an impressive early marker in a group which saw Qatar beat Uzbekistan 1-0 in their opening tie.
In what would prove to be an entertaining opening period, it was China who threatened first, Yang seeing his shot from 12 yards smothered by the visiting defence, and Beijing Guoan forward Wei forcing a smart save from Oman goalkeeper Ibrahim Al Mukhaini with 18 minutes gone.
With China in the ascendancy, Oman’s defence was to be breached twice in quick succession, as first Yang expertly converted Li Shuai’s pinpoint delivery on the half hour mark, and then Li Xiaoming headed home Wei’s superb floated cross to double his side’s advantage just four minutes later.
To their credit, Oman rallied briefly after the break, but the game was effectively ended as a contest in the 53rd minute when the impressive Wei powered home a header after being found by Yao Junsheng.
Omani defender Thani Al Rushaidi saw a close-range effort scrambled off the line by Gao Zhunyi shortly after, before Wei was stretchered off in the 66th minute following a hefty challenge much to the consternation of China head coach Massimiliano Maddaloni.
In the game’s last meaningful action, substitute Liu Ruofan was expertly denied by Al Mukhaini on a day when China took a significant step towards reaching the knockout phase of the AFC U23 Championship for the first time.
China are next in action on Friday when they take on Uzbekistan, while Oman face regional rivals Qatar in the day’s later game.
Massimiliano Maddaloni: China PR head coach
“Personally, I am very satisfied with my players, and I believe that they are improving match by match. I was very pleased to see that they executed our plans very well throughout the game, they did just as we had done in training. I think Wei Shihao has very good technical skills and that on an international stage such as this, he can improve. We will now keep an eye on him (after his injury) and hope he recovers in time (for the next match)."
Hamad Al Azani: Oman head coach
“How China scored was disappointing as they scored from three crosses and it is very important that we learn from that going forward. We were not fully concentrating during the game. We expect a lot from this team and they did not show enough today. In this game it was always going to be very important to keep the ball and we did not do that well today, unlike China who did.”