China vs Uzbekistan: Hosts can thank referee for still being in playoff race

China 1 – Uzbekistan 0
Gao Lin 85′
Attendance: 51,666

China defeated Uzbekistan in front of a capacity crowd in Wuhan yesterday thanks to a Gao Lin goal from a penalty in the 84th minute. The penalty came after Feng Xiaoting went down like he had been shot inside the Uzbek penalty area. The dive fooled the Sri Lankan referee who must have thought Changchun Yatai defender Anzur Ismailov made contact with the Chinese defender. Gao Lin stepped up and calmly slotted the ball past the Uzbek goalkeeper’s outstretched fingers.

The first half showed that both teams didn’t want to concede as neither team could create many chances. China came the closest, missing a sitter after 36 minutes as Zhang Xizhe shot almost straight at the Uzbekistan goalkeeper Ignatij Nesterov after being played through one-on-one.

The second half started with a bombardment of chances for the visitors as it only took a minute for Igor Sergeev to send a shot inches outside the China post. A few minutes later Server Djeparov had the opportunity to smash one home but sent the ball over the crossbar. A few other chances followed as Uzbekistan took control of the game.

At the hour mark China had their first real chance of the second half, a double chance nonetheless, as Zhao Xuri sent a shot flying that Nesterov could only punch away. The rebound was pounced on by Gao Lin but once again Nesterov was in the way.

Then Uzbekistan had perhaps the biggest chance to take the lead. Djeparov, who had been dangerous down the right-hand side all game was played through alone with the goalkeeper and from an angle, he decided to pass to a teammate in the middle but the pass was intercepted. Had Djeparov gone for a shot it would probably have had a good chance of going in.

Then in the 83rd minute, the decision would come as Feng Xiaoting went down like a sack of potatoes and Gao Lin scored the penalty. The Uzbeks could not find a way through in the few minutes left and China are still in with a shot at qualifying for Russia 2018. But it wasn’t pretty. It was downright ugly.

Other Results:

South Korea 0–0 Iran

South Korea failed to secure their place in next year’s World Cup which they would have done thanks to China beating Uzbekistan, had they managed to beat already qualified Iran. They did not however, so the final direct qualification spot is still up for grabs for Uzbekistan and Syria.

Syria 3-1 Qatar

Syria saw off Qatar and effectively killed their hope of going to Russia with a 3-1 win. Syria took the lead but Qatar came back, before Syria powered ahead and secured the two-goal winning margin. The win means Syria have taken the lead in the playoff push as they now sit third in the group on better goal difference than Uzbekistan. Qatar are eliminated from the qualification but could still ruin the fun for China in the final match.

Next matches:

All matches kick off 5th September at 16:00 UK Time

Qatar – China

Uzbekistan – South Korea

Iran – Syria

China Line-Up:

Zeng Cheng – Li Xuepeng, Zhang Linpeng (Ren Hang, 69th minute), Feng Xiaoting, Deng Hanwen – Zheng Zhi, Zhang Xizhe (Xiao Zhi, 45), Hao Junmin – Yu Hanchao (Zhao Xuri, 45), Wu Lei, Gao Lin

Watch the highlights of the match below:

About the Author

Ola Bjerkevoll
Norwegian studying sports journalism in England. Lover of all football, especially Chinese, German and Oceanian. Twitter: @olabje