Five-star China break Asian Cup curse

Kuala Lumpur, July 10:

China broke the curse of the Asian Cup in emphatic style on Tuesday when they thrashed lowly Malaysia 5-1. In Group D match, Indonesia beat Bahrain 2-1 in the host nation’s first match of the Asian Cup.

Han Peng and Wang Dong both grabbed doubles and Shao Jiayi was also on target as the 2004 runners-up China took an early lead in Group C, sending a message to their title rivals and boosting embattled coach Zhu Guanghu.

Favourites Australia and defending champions Japan have both failed to overcome unfancied sides while there have been upset wins for Indonesia and Vietnam in the first round of matches.

Malaysian substitute Indra Putra buried his right-footed strike from 30 yards with 17 minutes to go, triggering a spell of pressure. China are bidding to win their first ever Asian Cup after losing the 2004 final against Japan.

The result gives Indonesia a vital three-point cushion to take into later Group D matches with regional powerhouses South Korea and Saudi Arabia.

Indonesia opened the scoring in the 14th minute when Budi Sudarsono slipped behind the Bahrain defense, chested the ball around the goalkeeper, and fired into the bottom right-hand corner.

Bahrain pressed ahead and equalised 13 minutes later when Sayed Mahmood Jalal scored from close range.

Indonesia rode their luck in the opening 10 minutes of the second half, with Bahrain striker Alaah Hubail failing to score with only the keeper to beat. The winning goal came in the 62 minute.

Midfielder Firman Utina struck a powerful long-range effort that Bahrain’s keeper could only save onto the post. Pamungkas popped up to seize the rebound. The result avenges Indonesia’s 3-1 defeat to Bahrain in the 2004 edition of the tournament.