Hosts Peru fell to a bitter defeat against China at the FIFA U-17 World Championship after squandering a string of golden opportunities on a day when the ball refused to cross the Chinese goal-line. The win sees the Asian giants move to the top of the Group A standings, within touching distance of a coveted spot in the quarter-finals.
Peru boss José Pavoni sent out an unchanged line-up for the second match at the tournament. China made one alteration to their starting formation, defender Nanri Cui replacing suspended Gu Cao.
Roared on by the partisan home crowd, the Peruvians set off at a furious pace only for the Andean express to come off the rails after 13 minutes, Deng Zhuoxiang beating keeper Gian Franco Castellanos all ends up with a 25-metre drive bristling with controlled menace (0:1, 13). The Chinese came within a whisker of doubling their advantage just three minutes later after a slick one-two found Yang Xu hovering near the penalty spot, but the striker's shot with the outside of the boot struck the upright.
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The South Americans grimly battled their way back and began creating chances. On 18 minutes, Gianfranco Espejo skilfully chested down a cross from the right flank but volleyed over from inside the box, before Carlos Zambrano headed wide from Miguel Cardenas's free-kick midway through the half. The Peruvians' best opening fell to Daniel Chavez just short of the half-hour, but keeper Wang Dalei reacted superbly to beat away Chavez' six-metre drive. Now clearly in control, Peru pressed for a goal and Chavez almost deceived Wang, but the shot-stopper was able to scramble the striker's effort round the post. Six minutes from the interval, the lively Carlos Flores conjured up a spectacular volley only to see his effort whistle past the post. China threatened briefly but Gu Jinjin sent a header off target on the stroke of half-time.
Peruvians fail to take advantage
Peru had the better of the early exchanges after the restart, but continued to make poor use of their chances. The Chinese were guilty of a glaring miss themselves on 54 minutes when Gu Jinjin ballooned his shot over the bar from close range. Peru poured forward in search of an equaliser but the decisive breakthrough refused to come. Cardenas shot wide after a 63rd minute goalmouth scramble and Chavez' half-volley from 25 metres bore no fruit three minutes later, before the same player saw the Chinese defence hack a goal-bound header away from the danger zone with 20 minutes remaining.
The home crowd began to fear the worst when Jesus Rey's 75th-minute header shaved the post, before the striker failed to convert his next opening five minutes later. The South Americans might have equalised right up until the final whistle, but the Chinese ultimately clung on for the win. In the last act of a dramatic match, China keeper Wang was shown a second yellow card after the final whistle for a gesture to the crowd, interpreted as unsportsmanlike behaviour by the match official.
"I reckon we were lucky to win. Peru had the better chances," China coach Zhang Ning acknowledged afterwards.
Peru boss José Pavoni made no secret of his dismay. "My players have come off the field in tears. We did everything right today apart from scoring one solitary goal. There are some days when luck simply deserts you. I hope my players are up for it again mentally and physically by the time we play Costa Rica."
China now meet Ghana in their final group match on Thursday. Peru are left needing nothing short of a convincing victory over Costa Rica to keep alive their rapidly fading hopes of reaching the quarter-finals.