Yu header boosts China's slim World Cup hopes

BEIJING: China beat South Korea 1-0 on Thursday to keep alive their slim hopes of qualifying for next year's World Cup with only their second ever win over their Asian rivals.

Beijing Guoan striker Yu Dabao scored the only goal of the game in the 34th minute to secure China's first win in the current qualifying phase for next year's finals in Russia.

China, who are second bottom in Group A, move onto five points from six games, five points adrift of second-placed South Korea.

The top two in each of Asia's two qualifying groups advance automatically to the finals, while the teams in third place enter into a series of playoffs.

China's only previous win against South Korea came in Tokyo at the East Asian Cup in March 2010 in a low-key encounter, but this victory -- in front of a capacity crowd at Helong Stadium -- was of much greater significance.

The pressure was on coach Marcello Lippi's team to perform with the profile of the sport at an all-time high following an expensive buying spree by Chinese clubs.

China, who have only previously appeared at the World Cup on one occasion in 2002, had the better of the opening exchanges despite the Koreans dominating possession, with Guangzhou Evergrande fullback Zhang Linpeng regularly pushing forward to cause the visiting defence problems.

Zhang's strike in the 34th minute was deflected wide for a corner and from the resulting set-piece China scored as Yu steered Wang Yongpo's set-piece into the bottom corner with the deftest of headers.

South Korea, who have qualified for every World Cup since 1986, pushed for the equaliser in the second half and Chinese goalkeeper Zeng Cheng did well to twice deny long-range efforts from Swansea City midfielder Ki Sung-yeung.

He then saved a header from Ji Dong-won as the home side held on to take all three points.