AL AIN (Reuters) - China’s manager Marcello Lippi questioned the attitude of his team after they came from behind to scrape a 2-1 victory over Kyrgyzstan thanks to an own goal and Yu Dabao’s late strike in their Asian Cup opener on Monday.
Kyrgyzstan goalkeeper Pavel Matiash pushed the ball into his own net five minutes into the second half to cancel out Akhlidin Israilov’s first-half opener before Yu secured the points for China with a calm finish 12 minutes from time.
With South Korea winning 1-0 against a defiant Philippines, who like Kyrgyzstan are tournament debutantes, with a goal by Hwang Ui-jo, the east Asian nations are the Group C pacesetters but Lippi was not happy with China’s performance.
“I’ve been in China for two years now and it’s not the first time (we’ve been) in this situation,” Lippi said of his side’s disjointed display in the opening period.
“There were a few times when the team couldn’t play well in the first half and then, after I got angry and I pushed my players, I got the reaction I wanted from the first minute.
“Maybe it’s the characteristics of the players from China.”
Lippi’s side were outplayed in the first half by the Central Asian side and it came as little surprise when Israilov put Kyrgyzstan in front three minutes before the break with a volley from the edge of the area.
Matiash’s horrendous mistake, however, gifted the Chinese an equaliser when he palmed a seemingly harmless looping header from Zhang Linpeng into his own goal.
The goal lifted the Chinese and Beijing Guoan’s Yu slotted home late on to give Lippi’s team a winning start to the continental championship.
South Korea are attempting to win the title for the first time since 1960, although they were made to work for the three points by Sven-Goran Eriksson’s Philippines.
The Azkals defended resolutely but could not stop Hwang’s 67th minute strike as the Gamba Osaka forward took one touch to control Hwang Hee-chan’s cut-back before smashing the ball into the roof of the net.
Later on Monday, Carlos Queiroz’s Iran thrashed Yemen, another tournament debutant, 5-0 in Group D.
Mehdi Taremi scored twice in the first half, either side of a free kick from Ashkan Dejagah, as the three-time champions justified their status among the favourites.
Taremi gave Iran the lead with 12 minutes on the clock when he stole in to convert from close range after goalkeeper Saoud Al Sowadi spilled Sardar Azmoun’s long-range attempt.
Dejagah added the second 11 minutes later when his free kick came back off the post and crossed the line via the back of Al Sowadi’s head and Taremi made it 3-0 in the 25th with a header.
Azmoun hit Iran’s fourth from close range nine minutes into the second half and Saman Ghoddos added the fifth from just outside the penalty area in the 78th.
Editing by Ken Ferris