China held off a late Australian comeback to win 4-3 on Sunday, consigning the winless Socceroos to last place at the East Asian Cup.
Fu Bo’s team took the lead early on at Jamsil Olympic Stadum, and although Australia equalised through Aaron Mooy’s stunning long-range effort, China regained the advantage mid-way through the second half.
They added to their tally late on through Yang Xu and Wu Lei.
The Socceroos surprisingly got two goals back through substitutes Adam Taggart and Mitchell Duke, but the rally arrived too late to salvage anything from the game, and they have just one point from their opening match, a 0-0 draw with hosts South Korea, to show for their efforts in Seoul.
As promised, Holger Osieck made several changes, handing debuts to Josh Brillante at right-back and Mark Birighitti in goal. Robbie Cornthwaite came in at centre-back alongside Ryan McGowan and Matt McKay dropped in to left-back.
Mooy partnered Erik Paartalu in a new-look central midfield, while Mitch Nichols earned a start in attacking midfield, flanked by Craig Goodwin and Duke, who kept his place after impressing with his first international strike against Japan on Thursday.
Tomi Juric, who came off the bench to score Australia’s other goal in that 3-2 defeat, earned his first start at centre-forward.
Both teams began with purpose in oppressive humidity, but it was China who were rewarded first, opening the scoring in just the fifth minute of the match.
Full-back Sun Xiang collected a well-placed pass in behind Australia’s defence and cut the ball back to centre-forward Yu Dabao, who side-footed past Birighitti into the bottom-right corner of the net.
It took Australia time to recover from that early set-back, but they responded in emphatic fashion on 30 minutes, when Mooy unleashed a thunderbolt of a shot from 25 metres out which flew past Yang Zhi in the China goal.
Australia initially looked more comfortable early in the second half, but they could do nothing to prevent China regaining the lead in the 56th minute.
Wu Lei advanced from wide-right into the penalty area and found Yu, who struck a fierce shot at Birighitti.
The Newcastle Jets man did well to keep it out but couldn’t hold onto the ball, and Sun Ke was on hand to tuck home the rebound from close-range.
China sealed the victory through a well-taken goal from substitute Yang Xu, before Wu Lei weighed in with a fourth in the 88th minute.
Connor Pain came on to make his senior debut, and was joined off the bench by Taggart, who registered what appeared to be nothing more than a consolation goal for Australia with mere minutes remaining after a mix-up in the China defence.
When substitute Archie Thompson played in Duke for Australia’s third, an unlikely comeback briefly appeared possible, but it proved to be the final action of the game, as the whistle of referee Kim Dong-Jin called time on an entertaining affair.
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