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November 21, 2018

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More Lippi woe as China held; swansong for Cahill

Marcello Lippi will face fresh scrutiny after his insipid China side was held to a stale 1-1 home draw by 99th-ranked Palestine in a friendly last night.

With less than 50 days until the Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates, China’s failure to defeat the Palestinians will trigger another spasm of soul-searching about the perennially underachieving national side.

China, 75th in the FIFA rankings, went ahead when defender Feng Xiaoting popped up with a towering header from a set-piece on nine minutes on the southern island of Hainan.

But Lippi’s men retreated deeper and deeper in the second half and paid the price just after the hour when Alexis Norambuena found himself in space inside the box for the visitors.

Half the Chinese defense moved up to play offside, but the other half did not, leaving Norambuena all alone to slip the ball coolly under Yan Junling.

The 70-year-old Italian World Cup winner Lippi looks set to retire after the Asian Cup, but his hopes of leaving football on a high look as remote as ever as China again failed to fire.

Under Lippi, reportedly one of the best-paid coaches in football, China has won just one of its last five matches and is ranked a rung below war-torn Syria.

In Sydney, Australia bid farewell to totemic forward Tim Cahill with a comfortable 3-0 win over Lebanon in its last friendly on home soil before its Asian Cup title defense early next year.

Scotland-born winger Martin Boyle scored twice on his first international start to give the Socceroos a 2-0 lead at halftime and Mathew Leckie added the third goal in the 68th minute.

The night, though, was all about Cahill and a huge roar went up from the crowd at the Olympic Stadium when he came on to win his 108th and final cap for his country in the 82nd.

Looking sprightly despite approaching his 39th birthday, the last survivor of Australia’s ‘golden generation’ was cheered every time he touched the ball but was unable to add to his record tally of 50 international goals.

“This is the only time you’re going to see me cry,” an emotional Cahill said at a post-match presentation. “Every time I wore the green and gold, I played with my heart and I never left anything on the pitch. Thank you very much Australia.”

In 15 years as an international, Cahill scored five goals at four editions of the World Cup finals — including the first ever by an Australian — and also helped the Socceroos to their Asian Cup triumph on home soil in 2015.

Former goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, with 109 caps, is the only male to earn more caps for Australia.

Cahill started his professional career at Millwall, spent eight years at Everton, and transferred to New York Red Bulls in 2012.

In Toyota City, a debut goal for Japan defender Ryosuke Yamanaka prompted a 4-0 rout of Kyrgyzstan yesterday, as coach Hajime Moriyasu remained undefeated after five games in charge.

South Korea also maintained its unbeaten start under former Portugal coach Paulo Bento as it thrashed Hector Cuper’s Uzbekistan 4-0 in Brisbane.

The Koreans have now played six games since Bento succeeded World Cup coach Shin Tae-yong, winning three and drawing three.


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