Joeys prevail over China in AFC U17 Asian Cup epic

The Subway Joeys secured their first victory at the AFC U17 Asian Cup Thailand 2023 with an action-packed 5-3 victory over China in Chonburi on Monday night. 

A Nestory Irankunda brace, including a screamer from long-range, combined with Giovanni De Abreu and Mitchell Glasson’s goals, plus a late Nathan Amanatidis sealer, to secure a vital three points for Australia at the tournament. 

In a chaotic first 25 minutes, there was an abundance of action at both ends – with a total of six goals, and two saved penalties. 

It all began in the 6th minute as Daniel Bennie was brought down in the area, resulting in a penalty that saw Xie Gongbo save Irankunda’s effort. 

But the Adelaide United flyer would make up for his miss rapidly, finding the back of the net three minutes later as he tapped home Glasson’s cross for the game’s opening goal. 

It got even better for the Joeys in the 12th minute as Giovanni De Abreu unleashed a sweetly-hit volley on target, which crept past the Chinese goalkeeper and into the back of the net. 

Unfortunately for Australia, the early goalscoring flurry wasn’t over there, as China pulled one back two minutes later through Wang Yudong. 

The next goal to go in would be the pick of the bunch. 

Irakunda was played the ball with his back to goal, over 30 metres out, but would take just two touches before unleashing a rocket into the top corner. 

In the 25th minute life got even better for Brad Maloney’s side, as Mitchell Glasson popped up at the back post to stroke home Australia’s fourth of the game. 

It was so nearly 5-1 in the 39th minute as Australia were awarded another penalty, but this time Daniel Bennie was denied by another strong save from Xie Gongbo. 

China would then strike on the brink of half time, as Jiwen Kuai made the score 4-2 in the seventh minute of stoppage time. 

The second half turned out to be a more tight affair in hot and humid conditions. 

In the 62nd minute, China pulled back another as Wang Yudong was played in by a superb back-heel, skipped past a couple of defenders and lofted the ball over Anthony Pavlesic. 

They would continue to push for an unlikely equaliser, only denied by some heroic Australian defending, including a vital clearance from Bailey O’Neil in the 86th minute. 

As China continued to throw caution to the wind, Australia managed to put the game to bed in the 98th minute, with Nathan Amanatidis powering the ball home to spark wild scenes of celebration with his fellow squad members. 

Seconds later, the result was confirmed: a first victory for Australia at the AFC U17 Asian Cup, keeping them in strong contention for advancement out of Group C heading into Thursday’s final group fixture against Tajikistan. 

China 3 (Wang Yudong 14′, 62′, Jiwen Kuai 45+7′) 
Australa 5 (Irankunda 9′,18′, De Abreu 12′, Glasson 25′, Amanatidis 90+8′)
Date: Monday, 19 June 2023 
Venue: Chonburi Stadium, Thailand 

Australia Lineup: 1. Anthony Pavlesic (C), 2. Peter Antoniou, 5. Bailey O’Neil, 6. Andriano Lebib, 7. Daniel Bennie (20. Campbell Dovison 89′), 9. Mitchell Glasson, 10. Miguel Di Pizio, 14. Giovanni De Abreu (8. Corey Sutherland 62′), 15. Nathan Barrie (3. Aden Green 75′), 17. Nestory Irankunda (22. Nathan Amanatidis 62′), 19. Richard Nkomo (21. Fabian Talladira 45′) 

Substitutes not used: 4. Sotiri Phillis, 11. Tiago Quintal, 12. Daniel Graskoski, 13. Zac De Jesus, 16. Eddie Ince, 18. Michael Vonja, 23. Jordan Hoey