- China PR come from behind to defeat Kyrgyz Republic
- Hwang Uijo strike enough for Korea Republic to edge Philippines
- IR Iran in 5-0 rout of Yemen
Three traditional continental powerhouses came up against tournament debutants on Matchday Three at the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019, and in two cases, they were driven to the edge but ultimately were victorious in their opening fixtures. China PR came from behind to defeat Kyrgyz Republic 2-1, while Korea Republic edged the Philippines 1-0 in Group C. IR Iran proved to be too much for debutants Yemen to handle and ran away 5-0 winners in Group D.
China PR 2-1 Kyrgyz Republic, Group C
Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain
China PR earned a somewhat fortunate three points to kick off their tournament. Debutants Kyrgyz Republic had Marcelo Lippi’s side rattled for the opening period and took a deserved lead, owing to a superb volley by Akhlidin Israilov. However, the Italian tactician sent out a different beast after the break but, while improved, China got back on terms thanks to a huge stroke of luck. A flicked corner looked routine for keeper Pavel Matiash only to palm it into his own net.
Rounded by Yu Dabao who slotted home the winner, the tearful goalkeeper admirably fronted up for his error at the final whistle. "I want to apologise to my country and all the fans who came today. The team only lost because of my mistake."
Korea Republic 1-0 Philippines, Group C
Al Maktoum Stadium, Dubai
Korea Republic were also pushed to the brink by Sven-Goran Eriksson’s Philippines side, but thanks to a second-half strike from Hwang Ui-jo, Paulo Bento’s team came up with the three crucial points they needed to jump-start their campaign.
Bento reflected on his side’s performance: "The game played out in the way we expected it to. We wanted to dominate and control. The opponent bunkered down and defended. After we scored, the game opened up. It was a fair result in the end. We won an important game.”
Korea Republic will now turn their attention to Kyrgyz Republic, while the Philippines will face China in the group’s next set of fixtures on Thursday 10 January.
IR Iran 5-0 Yemen, Group D
Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi
Carlos Queiroz’s Iran produced a statement win in their Group D opener, defeating debutants Yemen in emphatic fashion. The three-time Asian Cup champions were flying from the start, bursting into a three-goal lead after 25 minutes thanks to a Mehdi Taremi brace and Ashkan Dejagah’s free-kick, that hit the post before ricocheting off Yemen goalkeeper Saoud Al-Sowadi before going in.
Star striker Sardar Azmoun and substitute Saman Ghoddos put the result beyond doubt with goals of their own in the second half. Iran will face Vietnam next, while Yemen will take on Iraq in the group’s next matchday on Friday 11 January.