DOHA - Two first-half goals from striker Yusef Ahmed gave Qatar a 2-0 win over China as the host nation finally joined their own Asian Cup party on Wednesday and began dreaming of a place in the quarter-finals.
Qatar took the lead after 27 minutes of their second Group A game when Ahmed scored the goal of the tournament at the Khalifa Stadium.
Collecting a lofted forward pass on his thigh, he smashed an unstoppable, swerving volley into the roof of goalkeeper Zeng Cheng's net from the edge of the penalty area to send the crowd into raptures.
Ahmed made it 2-0 on the stroke of half-time when China's imposing captain Du Wei allowed him too much time to turn, shoot and, to his horror, score with a low hooked shot from almost the same place as his first goal.
The victory moved Qatar level with China on three points. Uzbekistan lead with six and Kuwait are bottom with no points.
Qatar's French coach Bruno Metsu was a relieved man after his team redeemed themselves after the abject performance in the opening match of the tournament when they lost 2-0 to Uzbekistan.
"We wanted to show the real face of our team tonight and that's what the players did," Metsu told reporters. "I am very proud of their performance and we will try and do the same against Kuwait to qualify for the next stage.
"I think we sent a good message to the fans and I think they were very satisfied tonight."
China coach Gao Hongbo, who made three changes from the side that beat Kuwait 2-0 in their first match, took heart from their display and did not blame goalkeeper Cheng for either goal.
"I said to him at half-time, even if we had (Italian goalkeeper) Gianluigi Buffon in goal he couldn't have stopped the two goals. I am happy with his performance," said the coach.
The mood could hardly have been more different than the almost funereal atmosphere during Friday's defeat by Uzbekistan when the crowd left in droves long before the end.
Metsu, under intense pressure to avoid a second straight defeat and keep his job, had promised the supporters a better performance and his men did just that, responding with a confident and passionate display.
They could have been two goals up before going ahead. Sebastian Suria wasted an easy chance after 11 minutes and Ahmed hit the side netting before he found the net with his superb strike.
Suria, working tirelessly and forming a good partnership with Ahmed, was unlucky not to do better with two more opportunities, the second after 65 minutes flying wide after an ambitious shot on the run.
China created few real chances and their night was best summed up when Rong Hao fired a free-kick hopelessly high and wide from more than 30 metres just before the end.comments