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China PR fight back to finish third

Chonburi: China PR came from behind to defeat Australia 2-1 to finish third in the AFC U-16 Championship Thailand 2019 at the Chonburi Stadium on Saturday.

Second half goals from Shi Xiaomin and Zou Mengyao completed the China comeback after Australia had taken the lead with less than a minute played through Hana Lowry.

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Australia had ended a 10-year wait by qualifying for the semi-finals but having lost to DPR Korea in their last four clash on Wednesday, the Junior Matildas were aiming to finish with a flourish.

China, meanwhile, were looking to lift themselves after their heartbreaking defeat to Japan in the other semi-final.

The East Asians barely had time to settle down before Australia took the lead as with just 30 seconds on the clock, Paige Zois surged past the China midfielders before relaying the ball to Alana Jancevski on the left flank.

Jancevski sent a wonderful cross into the China penalty box and Lowry timed her right-footed shot to perfection as Australia enjoyed the best of starts.

China, appearing in their fifth consecutive third-place play-off match, suffered a scare five minutes later when Nia Stamatopoulos was left unchallenged in her run into the box but Jancevski couldn’t finish her pass as she shot straight into the arms of goalkeeper Luo Yu.

Chan Yuen Ting’s China did have a few promising runs into the final third, but their strikes from distance were mostly off target with Australia’s Miranda Templeman only forced into action in the 41st minute when the goalkeeper pulled off a fingertip save to deny Zou Mengyao.

Australia suffered a setback a minute later as an injured Lowry - their leading scorer with three goals - was replaced by Jordan Jasnos but they held onto their lead going into the half-time break.

China’s leading goalscorer Shao Ziqin - with two goals to her name - came off the bench at the start of the second half but it was Wang Qianqian who had a chance in the 56th minute when she intercepted a goal kick but Australia skipper Jessika Nash was quick to block the strike.

The East Asians began to attack Australia in numbers and in the 66th minute, a series of swift passes led to Shao with only Templeman to beat but she was flagged offside.

Shao was at it again 10 minutes later as she intercepted a back-pass but as the Australian defenders closed in, her last-ditch effort was comfortably saved by Templeman.

China, however, were not to be denied and a defensive mistake by Claudia Mihocic a minute later proved costly for Australia as captain Shi headed home substitute Wang Huimin’s free-kick for the equaliser.

Boosted by the goal, China moved with more confidence and in the 82nd minute, Zou was left with enough space to let loose a cracking strike from 20 yards out into the top left corner of the net for her side to seal the win.

Chan Yuen Ting: China PR head coach

“It was a tough game because we conceded within the first minute, but I’m proud of my girls because they didn’t give up and still gave a 100 percent and we got back the first goal and then came back with the second.”

Rae Dower: Australia head coach

“All credit and congratulations to China for the game today. For our girls, it’s a little disappointing and a heartbreak, of course. We scored in the first minute which was great, but we succumbed to injuries and losing Hana at the end of the first half. There was a little bit of fatigue but all credit to China who took their chances well.”

Photos: AFC

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