Desperate China needed a dramatic winning goal in the fourth minute of injury time to keep their Asian Games hopes alive in a 2-1 win over Kyrgyzstan today.
Wu Xi struck the decisive goal which secured the three points and set-up a winner-takes-all clash with Malaysia on Saturday to secure an automatic qualifying place alongside Group A rivals Japan. The Japanese side made sure of their place in the next stage with a 2-0 win over the Malaysians earlier in the day.
Korea DPR also reached the second round with a 3-0 win over the Palestinian territories, a victory which kept up their 100 per cent record in Group C.
China had lost 3-0 to Japan in their opening game and coach Sun Wei decided to drop first choice goalkeeper Wang Dalei. However, his replacement Zhang Shichang's first task was to pick the ball out of the net after just five minutes when Pavel Sidorenko scored.
China were on top for the rest of the game with Wang Xuanhong having a diving header saved by Maksim Akapov while Mozhapa Murehemaitijiang saw a neat chip come back off the crossbar.
China finally levelled seven minutes from time when substitute Lu Wenjun headed in a teasing left-wing cross from Murehemaitijiang. They wasted a golden opportunity in stoppage time when Zhang Yuan hit the post with Li Kai pushing the rebound onto the crossbar. But Wu's 25-yard strike in the fourth minute of stoppage time gave China the three points before Lu Peng's red card dampened the celebrations.
"We have taken the edge off the defeat in the last match against Japan," said relieved captain Zhang Linpeng. "Although we met some troubles in this match, fortunately we won. We will go step by step. I think we will do better in the next match if we avoid anxiety and calm down."