Goals from Zhang Linpeng and Deng Zhuoxiang ensured China made the perfect start to their AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2011™ campaign with a 2-0 win over 10-man Kuwait at Al Gharafa Stadium on Saturday.
The Kuwaitis always faced a difficult task after defender Musaed Neda was sent off in the 35th minute and China made their numerical advantage count with second-half strikes to seal victory and move China onto three points in Group B alongside Uzbekistan, who defeated hosts Qatar by an identical score in the tournament opener on Friday.
Gao Hongbo’s young side are hoping to signal an end to years of underachieving on the international stage and they started brightly, creating a chance with just only five minutes on the clock as Qu Bo’s header was deflected wide by a defender.
The Kuwaitis quickly got into their stride though as Yousef Naser’s deft shot flew just wide of the post before the reigning Gulf Cup and WAFF (West Asian Football Federation) champions felt they were denied a penalty when Bader Al Mutawa appeared to be felled inside the area by China skipper Du Wei.
But the best chance of the opening 20 minutes went the way of the Chinese as a fine ball from Zhao Xuri found Qu just inside the area and the striker took one touch before unleashing a stinging drive that Kuwait keeper Nawaf Al Khaldi did well to push away for a corner.
Things were to take a turn for the worse for Kuwait though 10 minutes before the break when Neda was shown a straight red card – the first of the tournament – when he kicked Yang Xu after the two had tumbled together following a challenge for the ball.
Despite that setback they had chances to score either side of half time as Hussain Fadhel poked a shot just wide before Al Mutawa curled a free-kick that keeper Yang Zhi stopped dead on the line.
But China took the lead in somewhat fortuitous fashion in the 58th minute when a corner was headed only as far as Zhang on the edge of the area and the defender’s low shot took a big deflection off the hapless Fadhel to nestle in the back of the net.
Less than 10 minutes later they added a second when substitute Hao Junmin was fouled just outside the area by Al Ateeqi and Deng stepped up to a curl a perfectly flighted free-kick around the ball and just beyond the dive of Al Khaldi.
The Kuwait custodian denied the East Asians a third eight minutes from time when Deng cleverly anticipated Rong Hao’s run, nutmegging a defender for the latter to run through on goal but his shot was straight at Al Khaldi, but by then the damage was already done as China collected the three points.