BRISBANE, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Australia and China were scoreless at halftime in their Asian Cup quarter-final at Brisbane’s Lang Park on Thursday.
Neither side created any clear chances as both teams struggled to control the ball on a bumpy pitch, normally used for rugby, that has been heavily criticised throughout the tournament.
The Australians dominated possession but were not clinical enough when they did get in front of goal and gave their supporters some early heart flutters, carelessly giving the ball away on a handful of occasions and allowing China to counter attack.
China’s first shot on goal came after the Australian captain Mile Jedinak coughed up possession in the centre of the field and Wu Lei won a corner.
Ji Xiang got his head on the ball first but directed it straight at the Australian goalkeeper Mat Ryan.
Jedinak, recalled to lead the side after missing the last two group matches with an ankle injury, was booked for a late tackle on Ren Hang as his frustrations started to boil over.
The Australians started to look more dangerous as the half wore on. Jedinak hit the side netting with a header then Mathew Leckie produced the best moment of the opening 45 minutes when he weaved his way past one defender then unleashed a powerful left-footed strike from just inside the box.
The Chinese keeper Wang Dalei dived to his right to make the save and was not tested again even though the Australians kept pushing forward.
Trent Sainsbury had a great chance in front of goal from a free kick from Marco Bresciano but glanced his header over the bar.
Then Tim Cahill, Australia’s all-time leading goalscorer, climbed above Ren but mistimed his jump as he tried to connect to a perfectly floated cross from Leckie.
The winner of the match will play either Japan or the United Arab Emirates in the semi-finals.
Earlier in the night, South Korea booked their place in the last four with a 2-0 win over Uzbekistan in extra time at Melbourne. They will play either Iran or Iraq.
Australia and China both made wholesale changes to their starting lineups for the start of the knockout phase.
Australia coach Ange Postecoglou made seven changes to the team that started in Saturday’s 1-0 loss to South Korea while China coach Alain Perrin brought in four new faces from his lineup that started in Sunday’s 2-1 win over North Korea. (Reporting by Julian Linden; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)