China inflicted a defeat in Vladimir Petrović’s first game in charge of Iraq. Substitute Yu Dabao’s 93rd minute strike in the 2015 Asian Cup qualifier in Changsha, won all three points for José Antonio Camacho’s side against the ten men of Iraq, that was played in torrential conditions at the Helong Sports Centre .
Iraq’s Serbian coach, who had declared before the clash that he would depend on players that had represented the Lions of Mesopotamia at the 21st Gulf Cup in Manama, was forced to make one change, with Ahmed Abbas starting in place of the unfit Ali Rahema in midfield.
The match began at a frantic pace, with the home side cheered on by over 30,000 of their vocal supporters, won a free-kick on the right of the Iraqi penalty box after only a minute, but from the resulting cross, defender Zhang Linpeng could only head wide.
Second later, left back Ali Adnan hit a venomous shot from the centre circle that the Chinese keeper Zeng Cheng had to palm away for a corner. The strike brought a look of astonishment from Iraq’s new Serbian coach, after watching the player attempt the audacious effort.
The home side, who had lost four of their last six matches against the Iraqis and their opening qualifier to Saudi Arabia a month ago, showed early on that they were not going to give up the game without a fight, when Zhang Linpeng and Sun Ke were booked on 8 and 12 minutes.
China’s best chance came on 17 minutes when Sun Ke on the right wing turned Humam Tariq and crossed into the box. He found striker Yang Xu on the edge of the penalty area, who headed low into the left-hand corner of the goal. Iraqi keeper Nour Sabri had to be at his best to dive to his right and push the ball out for a corner.
The game, looking equally poised in the first half, turned in the home side’s favour, when referee Ben Williams brandished a second yellow in the face of Ali Adnan in first half stoppage time.
The incident came after Ahmed Abbas had handled on the edge of the Iraqi box. Iraq’s Saif Salman had been booked for encroaching when China’s Sun Ke’s free-kick on the edge of the Iraqi penalty area went over.
The referee signalled for the kick to be retaken, but Sun’s next shot was blocked by Ali Adnan. The defender, who had been previously been booked in the 20th minute for a late challenge on the same player, was shown a second yellow and Iraq were down to ten men for the rest of the match.
At the start of the second half, Petrović brought on defender Ali Bahjat for winger Ahmed Yasin, as the visitors looked to hold onto a point and try to snatch a winner by catching the Chinese defence on the break.
China had been expected to dominate ten-man Iraq, who had packed their defence and retreated into their own half in the second period, but the weather played its part, with the torrential deluge making the pitch unplayable.
It looked as if Petrović’s men would hold on for a deserved point in rain-soaked Changsha until three minutes into injury time when Chen Tao’s corner found its way through to Yu Dabao after Zhang Linpeng had bundled the ball into his path and the substitute dispatched the ball past the Iraqi keeper and into the net for the winner.
The victory puts China joint top of Group C on three points, along with Iraq and Saudi Arabia, who will play Indonesia in Jakarta on Saturday.
At Changsha Helong Sports Center, Changsha, 31.621
CHINA 1-0 IRAQ [HT 0-0]
Yu Dabao 93’
CHINA: 1 Zeng Cheng; 3 Sun Xiang, 4 Zhao Peng, 5 Zhang Linpeng, 23 Li Xuepeng; 7 Zhao Xuri (19 Chen Tao 65’),10 Zheng Xhi [c], 21 Yu Hai. 13 Sun Ke (20 Yu Hanchao 75’); 18 Gao Lin, , 9 Yang Xu (11 Yu Dabao 75’).
COACH: José Antonio Camacho
IRAQ: 22 Nour Sabri; 23 Walid Salim, 6 Ali Adnan, 2 Ahmed Ibrahim, 14 Salam Shaker; 8 Saif Salman, 21 Ahmed Abbas, 11 Humam Tariq, 9 Ahmed Yasin (3 Ali Bahjat 46’), 17 Alaa Abdul-Zahra (4 Khaldoun Ibrahim 86’); 10 Younis Mahmoud (15 Ali Hussein Rahema 72’).
COACH: Vladimir Petrović
Referee: Ben Williams (Australia)
Linesmen: Matthew Cream (Australia) & Hakan Anaz (Australia)
Fourth Official: Jarred Gillett (Australia)
Cautions: Zhang Linpeng 8′, Sun Ke 12′, Ali Adnan 20′, Saif Salman 45′ (+2), Ali Adnan 45′ (+3), Zhao Xuri 45′ (+4), Salam Shaker 90′ (+4).
Sending Off: Ali Adnan 45′ (+3).