Naturalized player debuts as China beat Philippines in friendly

                                                                                                                                                                            0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, June 8, 2019
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                                                                                                                                                                            Li Ke became the first naturalized footballer played for China as the hosts beat the Philippines 2-0 in an international friendly match on Friday evening.

                                                                                                                                                                            Li started for China and played a quality 55 minutes on his debut. The 26-year-old midfielder received laud applause from some 40,000 spectators.

                                                                                                                                                                            "Li played a very good team football in his debut," China's coach Marcello Lippi said after the match.

                                                                                                                                                                            "He involved himself well and had a very good concentration during the match," the Italian added.

                                                                                                                                                                            The London-born former England youth player was named Nico Yennaris before joining Chinese Club Beijing Guo'an. He changed his nationality and became the first ever naturalized footballer in China.

                                                                                                                                                                            It was also the first match for Lippi in his second spell of China's head coach. He kept his promise to build a new team by debuting four players Li Ke, Zhu Chenjie, Feng Jin and Wang Ziming in the team.

                                                                                                                                                                            The 71-year-old was satisfied with his new team, despite the absence of regular strikers Wu Lei and Gao Lin.

                                                                                                                                                                            "The team showed a good spirit and players were devoted to the match from the first to the final minute," Lippi said.

                                                                                                                                                                            "What we did during the match was exactly the same in training, this is the most important," he added.

                                                                                                                                                                            China controlled the ball well and dominated the whole match. Wu Xi stretched for Li Lei's cross to open the scoring for China in the 14th minute. Zhang Xizhe dribbled past the keeper to double the lead and clinched the victory for the home side. Wang Ziming missed the chance to make it 3-0 as his shot hit the post in the 89th minute.

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