Lippi leads China over SKorea 1-0 in World Cup qualifier

Police guard a bus carrying Korean footballers at a hotel in Changsha China on Tuesday. /Newsis

Yu Dabao scored the only goal of the match at Helong Stadium in Changsha, China's Hunan Province, and handed South Koreans their second loss in the final Asian qualifying round for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Coach Marcello Lippi described China's much-heralded win over South Korea on Thursday as keeping the Russian Federation 2018 qualification "tinder alive for us" but the veteran World Cup winning Italian remained cautious ahead of next week's daunting trip to group A leaders Iran.

The lone flare-up came when Korea's Hwang Hee Chan lashed out at a prone Yin Hongbo in the final minutes and it was ultimately a deserved win for Lippi's well-marshalled team.

South Korea almost hit back quickly and Ji Dong-Won twice brushed the top of the netting before China made it to the break with a shock 1-0 lead.

"We didn't play the same level as we did in the last match against Qatar", said Lippi. A draw would have been meaningless, we had to get three points and we made it.

A defeat for China would end already-slim hopes of finishing in the top two spots of the six-team group that offer automatic qualification for Russian Federation.

Lippi is popular in China after he coached Guangzhou Evergrande to the AFC Champions League title in 2013, making them the tournament's first Chinese winners. He has called up seven players from the club to help him out at the global level.

"Whether we won or lost today, the chances of qualification don't look high", Lippi said. "We have to win this match to keep our hopes alive".

South Korea is still on course to qualify for the World Cup in Russian Federation but is four points behind Group A leader Iran after six matches.

South Korea will be without suspended Tottenham Hotspur forward Son Heung-Min, while Lippi has called up Vitesse Arnhem striker Zhang Yuning.




Chinese officials have urged fans to "display rational patriotism" for the game against South Korea, who are second in the group and whose supporters have been warned to stick together for their own safety. China describes the system as a threat to its national security and has retaliated with a number of measures created to target its neighbour economically.

China spent much of the second half defending.

"I have repeated that very often to the players since day one and they have to forget about all the pressure and fear".

The victory sent a packed Helong Stadium into raptures as China, who were bottom and winless after five games in Group A, gave themselves a glimmer of hope of reaching Russian Federation 2018.

China will now play Iran away next Tuesday with renewed confidence, knowing another victory could put them in the hunt for third place in the group and a play-off berth, while South Korea host Syria.

Australia is third in the group, three points behind Japan and Saudi Arabia.

U.A.E. remained in fourth place, one point behind Australia for the playoff spot. "And that makes the difference in the team". The two sides played to a scoreless draw in their first meeting last September.

Iran moved four points clear of South Korea in Group A, courtesy of a second-half goal by Mehdi Taremi.

Also in Group B, Japan avenged their first leg defeat to the UAE with a 2-0 victory to jump to second spot behind Saudi Arabia.

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