China 'stress' in Asian Cup draw but no tears over VAR

By AFP   January 13, 2024 | 04:31 pm PT
China coach Aleksandar Jankovic said his players were feeling "stress" after they opened their Asian Cup campaign with a 0-0 draw against debutants Tajikistan on Saturday.

The stalemate in Doha heaped more embarrassment on a country rocked by a football graft scandal at home but they might have snatched an undeserved win late on.

Finalists in 2004, China were largely outplayed by the 106th-ranked team in the world but were left fuming after a late header from Zhu Chenjie was ruled out following a VAR intervention.

Chinese players question the referees decision not to accept a goal from Zhu Chenjies late header in an Asian Cup game with Tajikistan, Jan. 13, 2024. Photo by VnExpress/Lam Thoa

Chinese players question the referee's decision not to accept a goal from Zhu Chenjie's late header in an Asian Cup game with Tajikistan, Jan. 13, 2024. Photo by VnExpress/Lam Thoa

Boos from the China fans rang out briefly at the end.

Jankovic refused to blame the officials -- "you don't solve problems with tears and crying" -- but admitted his players were feeling the pressure.

"Managing the stress of a big competition is not a new topic in general," said the Serbian.

"Many teams have the same problem and we have been talking a lot about this. Still, we had some difficulties in the first half."

The game took place five days after former China coach Li Tie appeared on national television to confess he paid bribes to get the job and was involved in match-fixing.

The former Everton midfielder's confession was part of a crackdown on football corruption that has triggered the downfall of at least 10 senior Chinese Football Association officials.

China's squad in Qatar were required to watch the television program, Chinese state media said.

Jankovic said he would "make some adjustments" before his team face Lebanon in their second game.

"We restart the engine tomorrow morning," he said.

"There is no eliminated team and no qualified team after one game."

Debut point

China, ranked 79 in the world, thought they had snatched victory when Zhu rose to thump a header past goalkeeper Rustam Yatimov from a corner with less than 10 minutes remaining.

But the goal was chalked off by VAR for offside with China's former England youth defender Tyias Browning standing on the goal-line.

"It would be too easy to make comments about the referees but I will never do it," said Jankovic.

"We have things to correct in the game, and one of the first things I learned in football is that you don't solve problems with tears and crying."

Tajikistan had China on the back foot in the first half and were unlucky not to head into the break with the lead.

Coach Petar Segrt said his players lacked the "experience" to make the most of their chances but declared himself "very satisfied" with the point.

"The only thing is, I want to have a 3-3 draw for the spectators – 0-0 looks like everybody played only defense," said the Croatian.

"I think it was not a defensive game so both teams can be happy."

Hosts and defending champions Qatar beat Lebanon 3-0 on Friday in the opening game in Group A.

Asian Cup 2023: China 0-0 Tajikistan

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