China Cup: Iceland beats China in opener

Nanning (China), Jan 11 (IANS) Iceland scored two goals in the second half to beat China 2-0 in the inaugural match of the 2017 China Cup International Football Championship here.

China manager Marcello Lippi’s dream to give his team a good start was dashed in the 64th minute on Tuesday as Kjartan Finnbogasson kicked in a rebound after Bjorn Sverrisson’s shot was blocked by Chinese goalkeeper Chi Wenyi, reports Xinhua news agency.

With two minutes remaining in regular time, Aron Sigurdarson doubled the lead from a counterattack with a curled effort into the bottom corner.

Iceland head coach Heimir Hallfrimsson said the Chinese were a force to reckon with, at least in the first half of the match.

“The Chinese team played better in the first half. We seemed to be losing control of the game before half-time,” he said.

“Luckily we got the match back in the second half. We tried to slow the game down in the second half. We defended deep to give the Chinese team less space to play,” he added.

“It worked. We made it easy for us to counterattack and both goals came from those tactics. I always thought before the match that the team who scored first would win the game, and I’m glad that it was us.”

The first half saw the hosts waste a few good chances. A header by Chinese captain Cai Huikang was saved by Iceland goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson on the line in the 20th minute.

Yin Hongbo squandered a one-on-one occasion against Halldorsson in the 33rd minute.

“Our players were not in their best form, and most of them earned national caps for the first time. They are way less experienced than the Iceland players,” Lippi said.

“Several players were so nervous that they forgot to save energy for the entire match. But overall, they have given what we asked for.”

China, whose last victory was in June 2016, a 4-2 win over Trinidad and Tobago in a friendly, will play the losers between Croatia and Chile in third place play-off on Saturday.