11/16/2016 8:00:56 AM

Key point

Key point

QATAR played second fiddle to China yet walked away with a crucial point as their 2018 World Cup Group A qualifier in Kunming ended in a goalless draw on Tuesday.

Despite enjoying 60 per cent of possession and having 20 shots on goal compared to Qatar’s seven, China failed to find the target. Coach Marcello Lippi, in his first game in charge of the East Asians, gave vent to his frustration on the touchline as his men squandered many opportunities. 

The Italian also rued their luck at the Press conference as Team Dragon were twice denied by the post while goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb did will to deflect a stunning diving header by midfielder Wu Xi on to the bar 10 minutes after resumption.

Perhaps, the only real chance for Qatar came through a free-kick from substitute Rodrigo Tabata, but keeper Yan Junling kept out the ball with a diving effort.

Qatar thus increased their tally to four points, but stayed fifth in the six-team group halfway through qualification while China remained at the rock bottom with two points. 

The group is still wide open after Syria held leaders Iran goalless and South Korea defeated Uzbekistan 2-1. Iran (11), South Korea (10), Uzbekistan (nine) and Syria (five) are above Qatar.

Top two teams from both Group A and B will book their berths at the Russia finals. The third-placed teams will fight it out over two legs, with the successful side taking on CONCACAF play-off winners for the fifth spot.

Fossati was happy with a point.

“We didn’t have a great match, but thanks to our defence, we gained a point. It’s important. I think we’ve a good chance to progress,” said Fossati.

Lippi tried to draw comfort from the fact that China played a good game.

“We had known before this match that our hope of qualifying for the Russia finals was a very small one and it’ll be even more difficult after this game. We were able to play good football and proved that we were better than Qatar.

Qatar’s striker Sebastian Soria saw his back-heel attempt go wide early on, but it was China all the way later in the first half. Goalkeeper Saad, who had a good outing, kept out hardworking left-back Jiang Zhipeng’s free-kick while Wu Lei ran on to meet a Jiang pass only to see his effort hit the post. 

Jiang and striker Zhang Yuning kept Qatar’s defence busy in the second half as well. Lippi added teeth to the attack by handing winger Cao Yunding his debut soon after the hour mark. The 26-year-old almost made an instant impact as he cut in from the left, beat several defenders and unleashed a shot only to see the ball fall into the side netting.

Ten minutes from time, Zheng Zhi shot one on the full after rival defence messed up a clearance, but his effort, despite taking a wicked deflection, bounced back off the post. DSP

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