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Soccer: China Tame Syria at AFC U-17
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A late goal from substitute Wang Yangxin helped China get off their AFC U-17 Championship title defence to a stuttering start with a 1-0 win over Syria in the Group D opener at the Bishan Stadium on Monday.

China encountered stiff opposition from the Syrians and the only goal of the match in the 89th minute from Wang took a deflection off Syrian defender Hassan Abdelnasser, an undeserved blow to the West Asians after a courageous performance.

The Chinese, who also won this title in 1992, started aggressively with the intention of stamping their authority on the game but were caught by surprise after encountering stout resistance from their well-prepared rivals.

Syria aimed to penetrate the Chinese backline and feed striker Ziad Ajouz, who displayed excellent ball control, inside the box even as China, coming into this tournament after playing no less than 24 friendlies, found poor finishing to be their bane.

China coach Zheng Xiong, who vented his frustration from the sidelines till the goal at the death, said after the match: "It was our first match and this is always the most difficult one. Syria defended very well and we managed to score a goal. I am satisfied with the performance."

"The players became nervous but the three points is what matters. Bangladesh and Vietnam are strong teams and we should never underestimate our rivals."

The Syrian coach put it all down to the vagaries of the sport. "This is football. In spite of playing so well against the champions we lost. We didn't deserve to lose and were unlucky. Our plan was to defender and score on the break. I think we were as good as China."

In the other group match, Vietnam defeated Bangladesh 2-0, thanks to second half goals from Viet Truong Tran and captain Danh Ngoc Hoang.

( September 5, 2006)

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