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Wang Shuang strikes winner as China PR beat Korea Republic to edge closer to Tokyo Olympics

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Goyang City: Wang Shuang scored the winner as China PR defeated Korea Republic 2-1 in the first leg of their Tokyo 2020 Olympics Playoff tie at the Goyang Stadium on Thursday.

Confined to her Wuhan apartment when China’s qualifying campaign began last February, Wang returned to the line-up and struck the decisive blow at Goyang Stadium, easing home her spot-kick in the 73rd minute after Zhang Xin and Kang Chae-rim had traded first half goals.

Thursday’s result means China’s qualification will be confirmed if they can avoid defeat in Tuesday’s second leg in Suzhou, with Colin Bell’s Korea Republic facing an uphill battle to achieve their dream of a maiden Olympic qualification.

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Persistent postponements meant both sides were playing their first official match in over a year but China looked sharp from the opening whistle, with Wang Shanshan firing over the crossbar within six minutes and forcing a terrific save from Korean goalkeeper Kim Jung-mi a minute later.

With Korean captain Cho So-hyun on the bench after arriving late from England, the hosts couldn’t prevent Zhang from putting China in front in the 33rd minute; judging Wang Xiaoxue’s cross better than any of the Korean defenders before calmly volleying the ball home from close range.

The visitors had a crucial away goal, but Korea Republic took just six minutes to conjure an excellent equaliser through Kang, who raced onto a pass from stand-in captain Ji So-yun before firing into the top corner of Peng Shimeng’s net from 15 yards.

Level at the interval, the visitors were given a golden chance to restore their advantage when Hong Hye-ji gave away a penalty, collecting an unsighted Tang Jiali when attempting to make a clearance.

That provided the opportunity for Wang Shuang, who made no mistake with her spot-kick, sending the ball into the bottom corner of Kim’s net and making a telling on-field contribution to a qualifying campaign which had until now been defined by her absence.

Eager to avoid defeat, Korea Republic pushed for a late equaliser, but Jia’s charges remained organised and composed, securing a vital advantage ahead of the return leg in five days’ time.

Photos: Korea Football Association

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