Uzbeks shatter China's dream
Uzbekistan beat China 3-0 on Wednesday to hand the regional giants their first AFC Asian Cup group-stage exit in 27 years.
Captain Maksim Shatskikh blasted in a rebound from his own header on 72 minutes before Timur Kapadze capitalised on an error from stand-in 'keeper Yang Jun.
Substitute striker Alexander Geynrikh finished from another rebound in injury time to keep China out of the knock-out stages for the first time since 1980.
The result means Uzbekistan finish second in Group C behind Iran and will face Saudi Arabia in the quarter-finals.
But it is likely to mean the sack for embattled coach Zhu Guanghu, who has failed to reproduce the form that took China to the 2004 final.
China, giving a first start to Manchester United forward Dong Fangzhuo, edged a tepid first half played in damp conditions at the cavernous - and nearly empty - Shah Alam Stadium.
Bundesliga midfielder Shao Jiayi put a reaction shot wide on three minutes and then warmed goalkeeper Ignatiy Nesterov's hands with a 35-yard free-kick on 20 minutes.
But with China's attack failing to fire, Zhu withdrew left winger Mao Jianqing for the dangerous Wang Dong on 40 minutes.
Uzbek refused to throw players forward in a cautious start but Server Djeparov almost had a shot deflected in on 15 minutes and curled another effort at Yang Jun, deputising for the injured Li Leilei, just before half-time.
Dynamo Kiev striker Shatskikh had a shot blocked on 34 minutes and another saved as Uzbekistan were mainly restricted to half-chances and shots from distance.
But Uzbekistan brought on Geynrikh at half-time followed by Victor Karpenko and the double switch made the difference as Shatskikh shaved the upright with a sizzling shot on 64 minutes.
Djeparov saw a shot saved before Karpenko hoisted a 40-yard free-kick on to Shatskikh's head, forcing a diving save from Yang before the forward finished with aplomb.
Wang had been desperately unlucky to rattle the bar when he met Zhang Shuai's cut-back first time and Shao Jiayi twice troubled Nesterov in China's best moments.
China's woes were compounded by a worrying injury to striker Han Peng, who was stretchered off in the dying moments.
As Han left the field, Geynrikh collected the rebound from his own free-kick and lashed the ball past Yang to complete China's humiliation.
China were runners-up in 2004 when they lost a controversial final to Japan. But they have slipped to 76 in the rankings and Zhu entered the tournament under orders to reach the semi-finals "or else".
Uzbekistan were quarter-finalists at the last tournament, when they were ousted on penalties by Bahrain. The former Soviet republic's finest moment was winning the Asian Games title on debut in 1994.