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China join Syria on road to Qatar 2022
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 15 - 06 - 2021

Second-half goals from Wu Lei and Zhang Yuning earned China a 3-1 victory over Group A winners Syria as Li Tie's side confirmed their progress to the final round of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Qualifiers as one of the best runners-up on Tuesday.
Zhang Xizhe had given the Chinese the lead late in the first half before Aias Aosman leveled just after halftime, but Wu Lei struck from the penalty spot and Zhang Yuning scored in injury time to move China PR onto 19 points from eight games to guarantee their progress in the Road to Qatar 2022.
China PR's win meant Syria's perfect record in the second round came to an end after seven successive wins but it mattered little as Nabil Maaloul's side had already confirmed their status as group winners prior to the game.
After making wholesale changes to his line-up for the win over the Maldives, coach Li Tie picked the same team that defeated the Philippines 2-0 a week ago and the Chinese raced into the opening exchanges.
Zhang Xizhe forced Syria's Ibrahim Almeh into action as early as the fifth minute when the Beijing FC midfielder controlled Wu Lei's pass across the face of the goal before hitting a shot the goalkeeper did well to push to safety.
Two minutes later they went even closer, with Almeh beaten by the ferocity of Ai Kesen's close-range strike. The ball, however, ricocheted off the crossbar.
With the heat taking its toll, the pace dropped but China continued to look the more likely to open the scoring. Almeh was called into action again two minutes before the half-hour mark, dropping to push Wu Lei's low drive around his right post.
Almeh continued to frustrate the Chinese, keeping out Ai Kesen's header before Jiang Guangtai slid in to send the rebound wide.
With three minutes remaining in the half, China finally took the lead. Wu Lei was at the heart of the move once again, moving toward the penalty area before sliding his pass into the path of Zhang Xizhe and his effort beat the Syrian goalkeeper.
Syria had offered little in the opening 45 minutes, yet within five minutes of the restart, they were level. A misplaced pass across the face of his own goal by Jiang Guangtai gifted possession inside the Chinese penalty area to Alaa Al Dali and his cut-back was thumped home by Aias Aosman.
The Syrians then went close to going ahead when Yan Junling was required to collect Mouaiad Al Ajaan's effort from outside the area before China restored their advantage.
Almeh and Wu were both involved again, with the Syrian goalkeeper this time adjudged to have taken the Espanyol winger down in the area and, with 21 minutes remaining, the Chinese striker stepped up to convert from 12 yards.
Three minutes into injury time Zhang Yuning put the result beyond doubt when he slotted in from close range to secure a famous win for China that keeps their hopes of a first FIFA World Cup appearance since 2002 alive. — Agencies

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