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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 16 January 2019

Marcello Lippi questions mentality of China players after stuttering start at Asian Cup

Two howlers from Kyrgyzstan goalkeeper Pavel Matiash saw China come back from a goal down to win 2-1 on Monday

China manager Marcello Lippi has questioned the attitude of his players after they needed two goalkeeping errors to earn a comeback win against Kyrgyzstan in their Asian Cup opener.

Kyrgyzstan goalkeeper Pavel Matiash inexplicably palmed the ball into his own net for China's equaliser just after half-time. Then a rush of blood 12 minutes from time saw him come haring out to the edge of his area before being rounded by Beijing Guoan forward Yu Dabao who finished into an empty net.

With South Korea winning 1-0 against a defiant Philippines, who like Kyrgyzstan are tournament debutants, courtesy of a Hwang Ui-jo strike, the east Asian nations are the Group C pacesetters.

But Lippi, who guided Italy to World Cup glory in 2006, was far from happy with China's performance, particularly in the opening 45 minutes, in Al Ain on Monday.

"I've been in China for two years now and it's not the first time [we've been] in this situation," Lippi said of his side's disjointed display.

"There were a few times when the team couldn't play well in the first half and then, after I got angry and I pushed my players, I got the reaction I wanted from the first minute.

"Maybe it's the characteristics of the players from China."

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China, whose previous best performances at the championship are two runners-up finishes, in 1984 and 2004, were outplayed in the first half and it came as little surprise when Akhlidin Israilov put Kyrgyzstan in front three minutes before the break with a superb volley.

Matiash's horrendous mistake, however, gifted the Chinese an equaliser five minutes after the restart when he palmed a seemingly harmless looping header from Zhang Linpeng into his own goal under no pressure.

The goal lifted the Chinese and Matiash was again at fault when he came charging but missed both man and ball as Yu slotted home late on to give Lippi's team a winning start in the group.

Kyrgyzstan manager Alexandr Krestinin refused to blame his goalkeeper and said his team would keep fighting, with games against South Korea and the Philippines to come.

"We're not talking about the mistake from one person – it was the whole team that lost the game," he said.

"We missed chances in the first half, but this is how the game is at big tournaments and we know that."

Updated: January 8, 2019 11:57 AM

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