Tajikistan draw with China on their Asian Cup debut – Inside World Football

January 13 – China and Tajikistan drew their opening match 0-0 in the Abdullah bin Khalifa stadium in Doha Group A after a late goal by China was ruled out for offside.

It was a strong Asian Cup debut for Tajikistan who will rue their missed chances in the first half but will in the end be relieved to have kept out China’s late pressure.

China will wonder what might have been if they had pushed harder and with more adventure earlier in the match. Ultimately it was too little too late for the Chinese and marked another under performance for a team that promises so much more but can never quite manage to deliver.

The draw hands the group initiative to hosts Qatar who beat Lebanon last night in the Lusail Stadium 3-0. The Qataris meet Tajikistan in four days time knowing that a win will put them into the knockout rounds.

Tajikistan will provide a much sterner test for the Qataris and against China showed they are not short of skill, ambition or passion.

Starting fast and urged on animatedly by coach Petar Segrt who repeatedly demanded a press and pace from his players, Kajikstan had their first opportunity on 3’ with Kamolov Anadoni blasting the ball over from the right.

China were happy to defend with five of players behind the ball and midfielders dropping deep, looking to cause damage in the counter attack.

It took until the 19th minute for Japan to mount their first serious attack with smart footwork by Liu Yang on the left beating his defender in the box but not able to get the ball past covering defenders.

Kamolov responded immediately at the other hitting a left footed shot over the bar.

On 25’ the increasingly threatening Alisher Dhzaliov shot form outside box palmed away by Jun Yunling. A minute later from just inside the box he dragged his shot agonisingly to the right of Jun’s post. It was to be Tajikistan’s best chance of the game.

China’s only real threat of threat of the first half came on 26’ minutes when a shot from a corner cannoned off two Tajikistan players and out for another corner.

Uzbekistan closed out the first half with a counter attack shot from Vaysiddin Safarov going over the bar and an Ehson Panshanbe shot drifing lamely wide in added time.

Tajikstan edged first half possession with 52% of the ball, but their shot count of 12 to China’s three really told the story of the balance of play.

China opened the second half with a higher press but it was Tajikistan who created the most threat in front of goal. A Dhzaliov shot from a cross was deflected wide. Ehson’s resulting corner was wasted.

Bur China were forcing the balance of play increasingly into Tajikistan’s box and by 57’ minutes coach Aleksander Jankovic had made four changes to his starting line-up.

A header from Xie Pengfei went over the bar while a shot from Xu Xin from outside the box was gathered easily by Tajikistan keeper , but the Chinese were building pressure.

Aleksander Jankovic made second half changes

On 80’ minutes the Chinese thought they had their goal. A corner from Xie was met in front of goal by defender Zhu Chenjie for what would have been only his second goal for China.

VAR, in use for the first time for all Asia Cups stepped in much to the consternation of Chinese fans and players. But VAR was right with Jiang Guangtai ruled offside after he had muscled his defender over the goal line when the ball was headed. It was a crucial and correct decision, a victory for VAR at last.

The match played out 9’ of added time with both teams still very much in the mix for knockout round qualification.

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