Chinese fans and media greeted the national team’s thumping 6-1 win over Vietnam on Wednesday with a mixture of joy and relief yesterday, as embattled caretaker coach Yin Tiesheng quit after a rocky six weeks in charge.
The commanding home win in Hangzhou put China at the top of their qualifying group for the 2011 Asian Cup finals, and gave local fans some much-needed cheer ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday next week.
“China sends new year wishes early,” the headline in the Beijing News said.
“Grateful to the national soccer team ... for not spoiling the party for fans about to celebrate the New Year,” a report posted on web portal Netease said.
Chinese soccer fans endured a miserable year last year, with the Olympic side knocked out of the group stages of the Beijing Games in August and the national side bundled out of the preliminaries for the 2010 World Cup finals.
The start of this year had also brought little cheer, with China slumping to defeats in a friendly with Iran and their 3-2 away loss in their opening Asian Cup qualifier against Syria last week.
The rare taste of victory on Wednesday saw Chinese fans surround the team bus after the match, to throw garlands rather than the usual missiles, one local newspaper reported.
Chinese striker Gao Lin put the hosts ahead two minutes into the game, but Vietnam levelled 10 minutes later with Nguyen Vu Phong’s low drive from inside the penalty area.
China took the lead again on 21 minutes when Gao burst through two defenders before sidefooting home a low drive. Du Wei and Jiang Ning added two more before the break.
Midfielder Hao Junmin contributed the fifth soon after the restart following fine work from Qu Bo, before Gao rounded off the night with his third, firing a fierce shot inside the area.
Also on Wednesday the United Arab Emirates got their Asian Cup qualifying campaign off to a flying start in Kuala Lumpur as they outclassed Malaysia 5-0.
Doubles from Mohamed Omar and Ismael Matar plus one from substitute Ahmad Khalil, seconds after he had come on, rounded off a memorable night for the Emirates and a thoroughly miserable one for their hosts.
Malaysia’s cause had not been helped by their inspirational captain Shukon Adan missing out through a knee injury but even he would have been hard pressed to hold back the rampaging Emirates team.
Omar grabbed his brace in the first-half, giving the UAE the lead in the 29th minute following good work by Abdul Salam Al Junaibi — who had hit the bar earlier in the half — as he slotted the ball past Syamsuri Mustafa.
Omar then doubled their advantage with a penalty one minute into stoppage time of the first-half.
Matar ensured that there was no way back for Malaysia as his superb volley made it 3-0 in the 62nd minute which led to the unfortunate Syamsuri being replaced rounding off a desperate return to the international fold for him after almost a two year absence.
The introduction of substitute ‘keeper Syed Adney Syed made little difference as Matar scored his second after a wonderful solo effort as he beat two defenders and slid the ball home.
Khalil was then on hand to make it 5-0, benefiting from another defensive error.
In Wednesday’s other Asian Cup clash hosts Hong Kong lost 3-1 to Bahrain.