CANBERRA (AFP) – Sun Ke scored twice to steal the show again as China defeated North Korea 2-1 in Canberra on Sunday to register their third win and best ever start to an Asian Cup.
The in-form Sun, who netted a stunning winner against Uzbekistan, opened the scoring after just 45 seconds when he pounced on a hopeful long pass to poke the ball home.
He grabbed his third of the tournament shortly before the break, heading home a cross by full-back Jiang Zhipeng that delighted the majority Chinese crowd at Canberra Stadium.
The brace repaid Alain Perrin’s decision to start the winger after his goal off the bench against the Uzbeks sent China into the knock-out stages for the first time since 2004.
“Sun Ke is a very good player, extremely skillful with lots of quality, and is playing with very strong self-confidence at the moment,” Perrin told reporters after the match.
“He is a crucial part of the team and is good with both feet. Because we don’t have many good forwards we play with a strategy that allows all of our attackers to have a chance to shoot and score,” the Frenchman added.
China, who were already assured of top spot in Group B and a Brisbane quarter-final against Australia, have now won all three pool games, their best ever start.
China perhaps should have gone into the break 3-0 when a last-ditch clearance on the stroke of half-time looked as if it had crossed the line, but without the benefit of goal-line technology the referee waved play on.