Lippi masterminds China PR win
Al Ain: Marcello Lippi breathed a huge sigh of relief after China’s second half performance took them through to the quarter-finals of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 as goals from Xiao Zhi and Gao Lin secured a 2-1 win over Thailand in Al Ain on Sunday evening.
Supachai Chaided had given the Thais the lead 14 minutes before the end of the first half, but a tactical switch at halftime followed by the introduction of Xiao in the 64th minute turned the game in China’s favour.
“I’m very satisfied,” said Lippi as the Chinese won their first game in the knockout phase of the AFC Asian Cup since the semi-finals of the 2004 tournament on home soil.
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“It was not an easy game because the opponent was very tough. We didn’t play very well in the first half because we made mistakes, but I’m very happy with the reaction of my players in the second half.
“We were able to create many chances to score and we could have scored more, but I’m very grateful to my players. In the second half we showed the great performance of this China team and I’m very happy we’re able to go to the quarter-final.”
Lippi refused to divulge what was said in the changing room at the interval but, after a poor showing in the opening 45 minutes, the Chinese were a side transformed in the second period as Wu Lei and Yu Dabai created a host of chances.
But it took until the introduction of Xiao in place of Yu for the scoreline to shift in China’s favour, with the Guangzhou R&F man scoring what was the 100th goal of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 three minutes after coming on. Gao then put his side in front from the penalty spot in the 70th minute as China completed the turnaround.
“It was important for me to make some changes in the formation and we started the second half with three defenders,” said the Italian. “I moved Hao Junmin from midfield to the right wing and he was very good and the introduction of Xiao Zhi was also very important.
“He was very good in the last 25 minutes. He scored a goal and he was very good in controlling the ball. In the second half it wasn’t easy but all of my players gave their best and in the end we expressed our way to play.”
Thailand coach Sirisak Yodyadthai conceded he had been out-thought by Lippi in the second half as the Thais missed out on a place in the last eight and a first-ever win in the knockout phase of the AFC Asian Cup.
“It’s a pity we couldn’t keep the score line we had at 1-0,” he said. “I’m very proud of the players and the performance they put in today. Both teams executed well and congratulations to the China team."
“We were hurt by the direct football that China played and that caused errors in our defence. In the last 10 or 15 minutes, we were back in the game but that was too late.
“We were quite confident of keeping the lead but that didn’t happen and hats off to China for adjusting their tactics and coming back into the game by scoring two goals.”
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