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Lethal Li makes the difference for China PR

Paris: Li Ying’s inclusion proved crucial as China PR bounced back from a first-up defeat to beat South Africa 1-0 at FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019 on Thursday.

The Chinese goal poacher was left on the bench in her side’s 1-0 Matchday One loss to Germany but celebrated her recall to the starting line-up with a goal that not only perfectly underlined her qualities, but also revived the Steel Roses’ campaign.

The Guangdong Huijun striker timed her run to perfection to seamlessly meet a pinpoint delivery from Zhang Rui, giving South African goalkeeper Kaylin Swart little chance of keeping the ball out in the 40th minute.

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China had been wasteful in their opening match against Germany and looked to be heading down a similar path against Desiree Ellis’s side, before Li – the AFC Women’s Asian Cup golden boot winner last April – arrived to score her first ever World Cup goal.

Speaking post-match, there were little surprises regarding the 26-year-old’s favourite events of the match.

“The moment I scored,” beamed FIFA’s official Player of the Match. “And the moment when the referee indicated we’d won.”

“Those were my happiest moments”

The Steel Roses’ win means only a positive result against Spain in their final Group B match on Monday stands between them and a seventh trip to the tournament’s knockout stage since 1991.

Chinese head coach Jia Xiuquan was pleased with his side’s ability to shake off the disappointment of a narrow defeat against the highly-rated Germans, revealing his belief that China are a team on the rise.

“In fact, the players have been constantly improving over my year as coach,” declared the former men’s international.

“The two opponents (Germany and South Africa) were different, and I think we had a more stress in the second game because we could not afford to lose this game.

“I did not worry, but the players had to worry a lot. This invisible stress was there, but they were able to overcome it and they performed well.

“They’ve been continuously growing and I’m very happy about this.”

China PR have only met Spain twice before, losing to the Europeans in successive September 2015 friendlies.

They will likely need to improve on that if they are to take their tournament any further than Monday’s match, although a draw against Jorge Vilda’s side will put the East Asians in a strong position to qualify as one of the four highest-ranked third placed teams.

Photos: AFP

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