Players of Qatar celebrate after 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)
A fantastic start didn't secure China a win to enter into the knock-out stages of the AFC U23 Championship 2018, the host team placed third in the Group A after being defeated by Qatar 2-1 in the last game of the group stage here on Monday, bidding farewell to the competition.
Uzbekistan beat Oman 1-0 in the other Group A match to progress into the last eight as the second-placed team in the group.
China were ahead after only four minutes as Deng Hanwen overcame defender Sultan Al Brake in the Qatar's penalty area before finding Yao Junsheng, who fired the ball into the net from close range.
"From the beginning of this match until the 35th minute we played very well, and the players put on a very good performance. We had a chance to make it 2-0 which would have been a very good start." China's head coach Massimiliano Maddaloni said after the match.
After a slow start to the game, Qatar gragually came back to form. China suffered a blow in the 42nd minute as captain He Chao was sent off after receiving a second yellow card. Just two minutes later, Qatar's Almoez Ali beat the offside trap and leveled the score 1-1 with a header.
"We conceded the goal because we were too soft, but what happened afterwards was that the players showed great personality. The game changed after the red card, as China started to play in a more direct way," Qatar head coach Felix Sanchez said.
The west Asian team made the most of the advantage after the break as China's goalkeeper Zhou Yuchen was tested by Hisham Ali and Almoez several times. The host team's hope were extinguished in the 77th minute when Tameem Al Muhaza's pass found Almoez, who scored his second goal of the game, third of the tournament.
"It is a good achievement to reach the top eight in Asia. All the teams in our group were of a very high level," Sanchez said, "We are very happy and very proud. We do not have any preference who we play in our next game."
As the Group A winners, Qatar will face the runners-up from Group B in the quarter-finals.
Thanks to an own goal from Thani Al Rushaidi in the first half, Uzbekstan managed to claim a 1-0 victory over Oman to seal another spot in the last eight.