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Soccer: China Edge Out Australia 1-0 in AFC Youth Champs
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A solitary goal from substitute Xu De'en saw last edition's runners-up China overcome newcomers Australia 1-0 in their opening Group B match in the AFC Youth Championship at the Salt Lake stadium in Kolkata, India Monday evening.

A deft 65th minute flick by midfielder Hao Junmin caught the Australian defense off-guard and an unmarked Xu De'en, having replaced Huang Bowen in the 52nd minute, was gifted with an easy tap-in.

Billed as the "Clash of the Titans", the encounter was a tame affair in the first half as both teams struggled to break out of midfield. 

China obtained two half chances before the break but defender Zhao Ming and midfielder Yu Hai failed to capitalize. In the 29th minute, Yu Hai's attempt on a through ball from striker Wang Yongpo hit the side netting while Zhao's header on a cross from Hao Junmin was off-target.

Australia, regulars at the FIFA World Youth Championships, coordinated well after the break and earned their first corner in the 53rd minute but in vain.

Aussie forward David Williams once went close but Chinese goalkeeper Wang Dalei kept watch. In the 62nd minute, he scraped past defender Liu Jianye but his shot from the right was blocked by Dalei.

China could have doubled their lead in the 75th minute but Wang Yongpo's free kick inched wide.

In the 84th minute, David Williams had a golden opportunity as he raced away from the defence on an ill-time back pass but goalkeeper Dalei herded the ball to safety.

Australian coach Ange Postecoglou said: "We expected this match to be tough and the Chinese gave us a tough time. Still, it is not the end of the road for us. We will have to win both our next matches to qualify for the next stage."

"The bounce was also uneven on the surface but it is same for both the teams. My players got a few chances but they failed to capitalize on them."

Chinese coach Jia Xiuquan expressed happiness at the hard-earned victory. "My players executed the plan very well. I told them that the Aussies are good at long balls and to chase the player who has the ball in order to prevent them from playing highballs."

"I played with four strikers in the second half because I wanted to get three points from this game but in the later stages I tightened my defense with five players."

China next face West Asian heavyweights UAE while Australia will lock horns against powerhouse Thailand on November 1.

(Xinhua News Agency October 31, 2006)

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