Almoez Ali (L) of Qatar breaks through to shoot during the group A match between China and Qatar at the China 2018 AFC U23 Championship in Changzhou, east China's Jiangsu Province, Jan. 15, 2018. (Xinhua/Yang Lei)
Fury at referee as hosts fail to advance at U23 event
Ten-man China lost 1-2 to -Qatar in their final group match at the AFC Under-23 Championship in Changzhou, East China's Jiangsu Province on Monday and so failed to qualify for the quarterfinals after a third-place finish in Group A.
The hosts beat Oman 3-0 in the tournament opener on Tuesday but were defeated 0-1 by Uzbekistan on Friday, and so finished behind group winners Qatar and runners-up Uzbekistan. Oman came last in the group, having lost all three matches.
Everything looked swell for the hosts when midfielder Yao Junsheng took the lead for -China in the fourth minute, smacking home from the assist of teammate Deng Hanwen -after Tang Shi shattered the right side of the Qatari defense.
Qatar fought back bravely as both sides missed chances following the goal. China's luck started changing shortly after the half-hour mark. Striker Zhang Yuning, whose goalbound lob had been cleared off the line in the 24th minute, was injured and had to be subbed. Then China captain He Chao was sent off for a second yellow card in the 40th minute. Qatar almost equalized from the resulting free kick, but Bassam Al-Rawi's shot hit the bar.
The Qataris did not have to wait long. Four minutes later, striker Almoez Ali headed in an Akram Afif cross.
Both sides missed chances until Almoez rounded China keeper Zhou Yuchen in the 77th minute and dispatched the ball into an empty net from an acute angle.
"I don't want to say much about the match," China coach Massimiliano Maddaloni told a post-match press conference. "My players played very well and I'm proud of them."
The Italian refused to comment on Iranian referee Alireza Faghani, whose officiating outraged some China fans.
"Some of my players were angry after the match, but we should see their improvement," the Italian said. "Playing in this tournament will turn out to be helpful for their future career."
But China team official Liu Dianqiu was less circumspect.
"As all in the stadium can see. We did not lose the match," Liu told reporters. "I think our opponents were almighty and it seemed like we were playing against 12 players... There's no future for Asian soccer if games are played this way."
Qatar coach Felix Sanchez found no problem with the refereeing. "If a player commits a foul or is unsportsmanlike, then he deserves a red card," said the Spaniard.
Many Chinese fans disagreed.
"This referee is as disgusting as Byron Moreno," one fan posted on popular China soccer site Dongqiudi, referring to the Ecuadorian referee made famous for decisions in the round-of-16 match between South Korea and Italy at the 2002 World Cup.
Arguing with the referee was improper behavior by the Chinese players, another fan replied. "They should have beaten him instead," he wrote.