China get off to flying start
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In what proved to be an open fight on the Matchday 2 to the 2011 AFC Asian Cup, Gao Hongbo’s China had the final say running out 2-0 winners over Kuwait courtesy of second-half goals from Zhang Linpeng and Deng Zhuoxiang. The result sent the Chinese topping Group A alongside Uzbekistan, who toppled hosts Qatar in yesterday’s tournament curtain-raiser by the identical scoreline.

The match
Kuwait 0-2 China, Al Gharafa Stadium, Doha, Saturday 8 January 2011
57’ Zhang Linpeng, 66’ Deng Zhuoxiang 

Group A's second game featured two of the tournament's youngest sides and predictably, it got off to an explosive start with the game flowing from end to end from offset to finish. Both teams showed their intent to attack trading chances in the early stages. China had the first real chance when pacy winger Qu Bo was sent clear into the area, stinging Nawaf Al Khaldi'a hand with a snap shot. Kuwait went one man down on 35 minutes after Musaed Neda received his marching orders after kicking Yang Xu. But the Middle Eastern side nearly caught the Chinese out before the break, Hussain Fadel getting ahead of the entire Chinese defensive line only to chip Waleed Ali's free-kick a little wide. 

Capitalising on their numerical advantage, the East Asians heaped on the pressures after the restart and their efforts paid off on the one-hour mark when Zhang Linpeng latched onto a rebound to unleash a powerful shot, which was deflected home off Hussain Fadel’s leg. The opening goal spurred the Chinese into attacking waves, with Deng Zhuoxiang doubling the lead with a sublimely-taken free-kick. The second goal crushed the Kuwaiti’s hopes to come back, with their opponents comfortably running their lead into victory. 

The star
Hao Junmin, China

Despite having few playing chances with German Bundesliga side Schalke 04 this season, Hao Junmin showed his creative talents as the playmaker, the team’s only overseas-based star had a hand in their two goals. Sent on only as a second-half substitute, he quickly proved to be the man to make the difference with his corner-kick leading to their opening goal. Within nine minutes he was fouled on the top of the area and won a free-kick, from which Deng buried his left-footed shot home. 

The stat
– The game marked the two sides’ fifth meeting in the continental finals. Entering this game on even terms with a win and two draws each, both sides were desperate to go one better but it was the Chinese who have realised their goal, recording a second triumph.

What they said
“The opening game is always hard to play so I am very pleased that we took a winning start. Our opponents played better in the first half-hour but after coping well with the pressures in the opening stages, we gradually fit into the contest and found our feet. After Kuwait were reduced to ten men, we put the game totally under our control and eventually won the game. Despite the result, it is too early to predict which two teams are to progress from our section as the four teams are very close rivals. The two qualifying spots may only be decided during the final round.” China coach Gao Hongbo.

“I don't think we played a bad game as we have good players who tried their best. The key reason (for the opening defeat) should be the loss of Musaed Neda when he was red-carded during the first half. He is a key player in our rearguard thus without him it was very hard for us to play against a tough side like China.” Kuwait coach Goran Tufegdzic.