Players of China greet the spectators after the Group J third round match between China and Maylasia at the AFC U23 Championship 2020 Qualifiers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, March 27, 2019. The match ended in a 2-2 draw. (Xinhua/Chong Voon Chung)
SHAH ALAM, Malaysia, March 26 (Xinhua) -- China drew 2-2 with Malaysia in an intense AFC U-23 Championship qualifier here on Tuesday to book their place in the tournament finals.
With both teams having won two games before entering this final match, this would decide the group winners who would automatically qualify for the finals in Thailand next year.
The hosts took the lead in the 11th minute when Chinese defender Zhu Chenjie turned Muhammad Syahmi Safari's cross into his own net, handing Malaysia the lead.
China soon drew level through striker Zhang Yuning. However, in the 55th minute, a mistake at a corner by Chinese goalkeeper Chen Wei handed Malaysia the lead for a second time.
China equalized for the second time in the 83rd minute with a powerful header from Jiang Shenglong, ensuring they topped the group on goal difference ahead of Malaysia.
"It was a tough game for us, but I think our team is very resilient. After we went 1-0 and 2-1 down, the team showed a lot of character and a lot of personality, they made it happen with two headers," said Chinese coach Guus Hiddink, adding that he was proud of his players.
A total 16 teams will play in the finals of the AFC U-23 Championship in Thailand next January, with the top three teams qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.