AFC: China PR’s 2017 AFC U-19 Women’s Championship campaign got off to a winning start, as Hesterine de Reus’ side produced a goal in each half to account for Uzbekistan with a 2-0 victory at Jiangging Sports Centre Stadium on Sunday.
Uzbekistan showed they were no pushovers, but goals from Chen Yuanmeng (picture above) and Liu Jinh helped China PR get off on the right foot.
China PR head coach de Reus lived up to her pre-tournament promise of a young team, selecting a starting 11 featuring four 17-year-olds, and one of China’s youngsters produced the tournament’s opening goal in the 19th minute.
After an even opening period, Chen Yuanmeng got on the end of a sumptuous pass by Xie Qiwen before rolling the ball past Uzbekistan goalkeeper Maftuna Jonimqulova to put the hosts in the driver’s seat.
Before that goal, Uzbekistan had started confidently, and it seemed hard to believe they had lost 9-0 when these teams met in the corresponding match two years ago, but the home side’s pressure and movement meant they took more control as the half wore on.
With Zhao Yuji exerting increasing influence in her role just behind the striker, China PR regularly looked on the verge of doubling their lead but Bahrom Norsafarov’s side defended strongly, and the teams went to half-time separated by a single goal.
China PR took the game away from the Central Asians 15 minutes after the break, when midfielder Liu Jing was felled as she entered the penalty area after a darting run through the Uzbek defence.
Korean referee Oh Hyeon-jeong pointed the spot, and Liu (picture above) stepped up to drill the ball into the bottom left-corner and give China PR a commanding 2-0 lead with just under 30 minutes to play.
Substitute Jin Kin had a gilt-edged chance to make it three just minutes later, but she was denied by a brave Jonimqulova save after Xie Qiwen ended a run down the right flank with a perfect cross.
Malika Burkhonova looked destined to score Uzbekistan’s first goal at the tournament since 2004 when she found herself one on one with Peng Shimeng, but the Chinese custodian made a great save to secure her clean sheet in the dying minutes.
China PR’s next test comes in the shape of Thailand on Wednesday, while Uzbekistan face DPR Korea in a match they must not lose if they are to live up to Norsafarov’s pre-tournament target of FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup qualification.