Lebanese hit woodwork as China settle for a second 0-0

January 17 – In a war of attrition, China played out their second goalless draw of the tournament, failing to find the net against Lebanon in their Group A encounter. 

After 180 minutes of football, the risk-averse Chinese have still not scored a single goal at the Asian Cup, drawing 0-0 against Lebanon, to get a second point in the competition, but without showing much improvement from their underwhelming showing against Tajikistan.

China offered precious little, often relying on aerial threats, while Lebanon struck the woodwork twice.  China’s repeated insipid play suggests that they stand little chance against Qatar in their final group game, which could spell the end of their tournament.

China coach Aleksander Jankovic introduced both midfielder Xin Xu and striker Wuning Zhang to his starting line-up while Lebanon manager Miodrag Radulović rang the changes with four new starters, but that seemed to have little effect on the pitch with both sides playing cautiously in a slow, stop-start opening to the match.

Early on, Radulovic had to substitute his central defender Nour Mansour because of injury and a lengthy VAR check over a potential red card didn’t help proceedings.

In the 23rd minute, some meaningful action arrived at last as Lebanese captain Hassan Maatouk tested Chinese goalkeeper Junling Yan with a curled attempt.

Winger Omar Bugiel headed the following corner over and had another opportunity at the half-hour mark, but Yan had no problems dealing with his header this time. Showing good pace and positioning in the final third, the AFC Wimbledon player remained industrious and side-netted an angled shot that deceived a section of the Lebanese supporters into believing their side had taken the lead.

Pressure was mounting though and full-back Khalil Khamis’s header sailed over the crossbar. Providing all the colour and danger, Lebanon were showing a measure of urgency whereas China remained conservative and uninspired.

Up front, Zhang tried to make the game physical, but all he got in return was a booking. Just like in their goalless draw with Tajikistan, China did not seem to have a game plan beyond defending and dropping deep while applying excessive caution going forward.

It was hard to see how the Chinese planned to score a goal and yet at the end of a half, in which they had produced precious little, they almost took the lead through Zang, who pounced on a poor Lebanese clearance, forcing the opposing goalkeeper to make a double save. Lebanon were having none of it and, drifting inside, Maatouk’s weighted shot ricocheted off the woodwork.

China were keen to seize the initiative with a header from defensive midfielder Wang Shangyuan, a lot of the team’s danger coming from the air. Minutes later, the crossbar came to China’s rescue again when their goalkeeper failed to get his fingertips to a long-range drive from Hassan Srour. Lebanon kept knocking on the door but simply found more frustration when in the 63rd minute Yan was equal to Srour’s attempt.

Strangely, it was China again who almost took the lead when Lebanon’s number one spilled a cross and Khamis had to clear the ball off the line. It didn’t prompt the Chinese into greater action. Ever cautious, they seemed content with the goalless scoreline as the match progressed.

In the last ten minutes of the match and the seven minutes of injury time, the Lebanese ran out of steam, but on balance deserved to take all three points. Jankovic and his Chinese XI will need a renaissance soon because, against Qatar, they can’t afford to draw a blank.

Contact the writer of this story at moc.l1709100166labto1709100166ofdlr1709100166owedi1709100166sni@i1709100166tnuk.1709100166ardni1709100166mas1709100166


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