Heroic Syria keep tame China at bay

Syria – China 2-2
FIFA World Cup Qualification

A Syrian free kick deep into injury time saw China draw 2-2 against Syria on Tuesday and it leaves the World Cup prospects of Marcello Lippi and his team hanging in the balance, with now only a playoff spot a possibility. And if that is to happen results have to go China’s way.

After easily disposing of the Philippines in last week’s friendly, winning 8-1, China were confident ahead of the match against Syria.

But the Syrians, who play to take away some of the pain of their countrymen scattered around the globe and back home, have done really well so far and showed once again that they were not to be taken lightly.

Gao Lin had the first effort on goal and really tested Syrian goalkeeper Ibrahim Alma with a shot from distance, but it was Syria who opened the scoring.

Mahmoud Al Mawas gave the Syrians the lead from a penalty in the 12th minute after goalkeeper Zeng Cheng had fouled onrushing striker Fahd Youssef.

Guangzhou Evergrande centre-back Zhang Linpeng hit the crossbar with a header as China pushed ever closer towards an equalizer but had to settle for nothing after the first half ended.

After 68 minutes Zhang was once again involved. He went down somewhat easy inside the box after getting the tiniest of pulls from a Syrian defender and referee Ammar Al-Jeneibi pointed to the spot for the second time in the match. Gao Lin converted and China were level.

China’s next goal came from a beautiful cross that was headed down for Jiangsu Suning’s Wu Xi who volleyed the ball first time into the back of the Syrian net with only 15 minutes left on the clock.

Then, as the match entered its dying moments, deep into injury time, Henan Jianye player Ahmad Al Salilh punished the country where he plies his trade on a daily basis by smashing a free kick into the top corner. Goalkeeper Zeng could only get a touch to it and could not stop the ball from going in. An absolute beauty of a free kick.

That free kick salvaged a point for the Syrians as they look to mount an attack at Uzbekistan in third place of the group, just three points ahead.

Ironically, China could help the Syrians do just that as they play Uzbekistan in the next round of World Cup qualifiers in August while Syria play bottom-of-the-group Qatar.

About the Author

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