China scored twice in 13 minutes to come from behind and upset Uzbekistan 2-1 at the Asian Cup on Wednesday to book a spot in the quarter-finals.
China started the tournament as an outsider for the title but after winning their first two Group B matches in dramatic fashion, they are now assured of finishing top of their pool with a game to spare.
Trailing 1-0 at half-time against the group favourites, China drew level after 55 minutes when Wu Xi scored and then snatched the lead with a spectacular solo strike from substitute Sun Ke.
Uzbekistan, who took an early lead through an opportunist goal from Odil Ahmedov, could not find a late equaliser and now face Saudi Arabia in their final group game in Melbourne on Sunday to decide the pool runner-up.
As Group B winners, China will play the runner-up in Group A, either Australia or South Korea. The Group B runners-up will play the Group A winners.
The Saudis, beaten 1-0 by China on the weekend, stayed in the hunt earlier in the day with a 4-1 win over North Korea, who were eliminated.
Ahmedov gave Uzbekistan the lead after 22 minutes with a goal against the run of play. The central midfielder took a speculative long-range shot from outside the box that took a wicked deflection off the legs of the Chinese defensive midfielder Wu.
The Chinese goalkeeper Wang Dalei, who saved a penalty in the win over the Saudis, was helpless to stop the ball from flying into the top corner of the net.
Wu made amends by scoring the equaliser in the second half after Jiang Zhipeng's cross from the left floated over the head of Uzbekistan goalkeeper Ignatiy Nesterov, who over-committed, leaving the goal open.
Zhang Chengdong and Gao Lin played the ball back in for the unmarked Wu to blast it into the back of the net.
Less than a quarter of an hour later, China scored again, when Sun, who had come off the bench a few minutes earlier, got the ball inside the Uzbekistan and dribbled downfield.
He got as far as the edge of the box before unleashing a ferocious shot that curled past the outstretched arms of Nesterov and decided the match.
Sahlawi leads Saudis fightback
In the day's other match in Melbnourne, Mohammed Al Sahlawi scored twice in quick succession just after half-time as three-time winners Saudi Arabia kept their Asian Cup quarter-final hopes.
DPR Korea’s first AFC Asian Cup goal since November 1992 after 11 minutes from Ryang Yong-gi had given Jo Tong-sop’s side hope of bouncing back from Saturday’s opening defeat by Uzbekistan in Group B.
But after Naif Hazazi equalised for Saudi Arabia before half-time, Al Sahlawi’s quickfire double in the space of three second-half minutes and a late strike from Nawaf Al Abid ensured Cosmin Olaroiu’s side their first three points of the campaign after having lost to China at the weekend and ended the quarter-final hopes of former semi-finalists DPR Korea.
Image: Sun Ke of China celebrates after scoring during the 2015 Asian Cup match against Uzbekistan at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Australia.
Photograph: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images