Football: Oman lose to China in AFC U-23 opener
January 9, 2018 | 9:11 PM
by Sports Reporter
Oman's Zahir Al Aghbari, left, and Ibrahim Al Sawwafi centre, in action during their AFC U23 Championship Group A opener against China in Changzhou on Tuesday. Photo - ISMAIL AL FARSI / Times of Oman

Muscat: Oman made an unimpressive start to their campaign in the AFC U23 Championship when they were outplayed by hosts China in their opening Group A match on Tuesday.

According to the news posted on the AFC website, Hamad Al Azzani-coached Oman were handed a 3-0 defeat by China at the Olympic Sports Centre in Changzhou city.

A disappointed Hamad Al Azzani in his post-match comments said: “How China scored was disappointing as they scored from three crosses and it is very important that we learn from that going forward.”

“We were not fully concentrating during the game. We expect a lot from this team and they did not show enough today. In this game it was always going to be very important to keep the ball and we did not do that well today, unlike China who did,” he added.

Goals from Yang Liyu, Li Xiaoming and Wei Shihao proved the difference on a bitterly cold afternoon, as China laid down an impressive early marker in a group which also includes Uzbekistan and Qatar.

In what would prove to be an entertaining opening period, it was China who threatened first, Yang seeing his shot from 12 yards smothered by the visiting defence, and Beijing Guoan forward Wei forcing a smart save from Oman goalkeeper Ibrahim Al Mukhaini with 18 minutes gone.

With China in the ascendancy, Oman’s defence was to be breached twice in quick succession, as first Yang expertly converted Li Shuai’s pinpoint delivery on the half hour mark, and then Li Xiaoming headed home Wei’s superb floated cross to double his side’s advantage just four minutes later.

To their credit, Oman rallied briefly after the break, but the game was effectively ended as a contest in the 53rd minute when the impressive Wei powered home a header after being found by Yao Junsheng.

Omani defender Thani Al Rushaidi saw a close-range effort scrambled off the line by Gao Zhunyi shortly after, before Wei was stretchered off in the 66th minute following a hefty challenge much to the consternation of China head coach Massimiliano Maddaloni.

In the game’s last meaningful action, substitute Liu Ruofan was expertly denied by Al Mukhaini on a day when China took a significant step towards reaching the knockout phase of the AFC U23 Championship for the first time.

China are next in action on Friday when they take on Uzbekistan, while Oman face regional rivals Qatar on the same day.

A satified Chinese coach Massimiliano Maddaloni said: “Personally, I am very satisfied with my players, and I believe that they are improving match by match. I was very pleased to see that they executed our plans very well throughout the game, they did just as we had done in training.

“I think Wei Shihao has very good technical skills and that on an international stage such as this, he can improve. We will now keep an eye on him (after his injury) and hope he recovers in time (for the next match).”

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