Yu Dabao’s goal led China to a surprise 1-0 World Cup qualifying win over South Korea as the hosts secured their first victory in Group A.
Marcello Lippi’s side had not even scored on the road to Russia 2018 since a 3-2 loss to the same opponents in September – a run encompassing four matches – but rewarded the vociferous Helong Stadium crowd with a deserved win on Thursday.
Defeat would have all but ended China’s hopes of progressing, but they kept the dream alive while putting a dent in South Korea’s bid, denying Uli Stielike’s men the chance to go top ahead of leaders Iran’s trip to Qatar.
The breakthrough came in the 34th minute, when Yu deftly headed Wang Yongpo’s corner inside the far post to bring to life an otherwise uneventful first half.
Ji Dong-won’s towering header came close to drawing the visitors level before the interval as South Korea sought a swift response.
They almost got a favour from an unlikely source as Feng Xiaoting deflected Kim Jin-su’s cross towards his own goal, but the China defender was relieved to see the ball flash wide of the left-hand upright.
The hosts strung together a superb passing move early in the second half, before Yu’s attempt was blocked for a corner that came to nothing.
Ki Sung-yueng fired a warning shot at the other end as his powerful 25-yard drive was beaten away by Zeng Cheng.
The final 15 minutes could have been a more serene affair for Lippi’s side had substitute Yin Hongbo not hurriedly sliced wide of the target when well placed.
China were almost made to pay for that soon after, but Wu Xi cleared cleared Hong Jeong-ho’s header off the line.
Yin was then on the receiving end of some rough treatment from Hwang Hee-chan, who kicked the ball into him as he lay on the floor, but that only served to highlight South Korea’s frustration as they headed towards a disconcerting loss.
Next up for them is the visit of Syria on March 28, while China head to Iran.
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