China downs Melbourne Victory 1-0 in 3-half game

China completed its Asian Cup warm-up with a 1-0 win over Australian A-League champions Melbourne Victory in Hong Kong in a wierd three-half game format requested by China coach Zhu Guanghu. "The rules change every five minutes. They want to make sure it's an exhibition match," said Victory chairman Geoff Lord before the game. "It's changed four times since we've been here."

Changchun Yatai midfielder Wang Dong scored the lone goal in the 35th minute, as Victory continued with its preparations for the A-League 2007/08 season against a full strength China side that featured English Premier League players Sun Jihai, Li Tie and Dong Fangzhuo.

No reason was given for the unusual rules although there was speculation China coach Zhu Guanghu, who has been threatened with the sack, was unwilling to risk losing a full match just days before the Asian Cup. "This is preparation for the Asian Cup -- it's just training," Zhu told China Daily, "we're preparing step by step to get ready for the Asian Cup. We're on track." The match completed an unorthodox preparation for China, which fielded players from Hong Kong in Sunday's Reunification Cup victory over an ageing FIFA World Stars team.

Victory coach Ernie Merrick was complimentary towards his Chinese counterpart and believes China have a good chance of being successful in Asia’s most prestigious tournament, which begins this weekend. “It was a very risky game for them and it was a credit to him that he allowed a club side from Australia to play the full national team when he had a lot to lose, and I think its worked for him. The Chinese team are big lads and they’ll be very imposing in Asia. They’re quick, pretty strong, and technically very good.”

Victory will next compete for the Mayors’ Cup against Chinese Super League side Tianjin Teda at Tianjin Teda Stadium on Saturday night. “All we’ve got is some very fatigued boys,” Merrick said. “We leave the hotel early tomorrow morning to jump on a flight to Beijing and then it’s a two hour bus trip to Tianjin, so there’s a lot of traveling.”