• China football coach Marcelo Lippi

China football coach Marcelo Lippi (Photo : Getty Images Sport)

China kept alive its hope of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia after Yu Dabao's header with 11 minutes left in the first half lifted it past South Korea 1-0 on Thursday at Changsha's Helong Stadium. Goalkeeper Zeng Cheng made a trio of superb saves in the second half to protect the lead.

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It was China's second ever victory over the South Koreans and its first in seven years.

China coach Marcello Lippi started with five members of his former Guangzhou Evergrande squad that include Zheng Zhi as captain, Feng Xiaoting heading their defense, and Zhang Linpeng at right-back.

Zhang Linpeng was a constant menace in the opening 45 minutes as he drove towards the Korean backline incessantly.

Yu got close to scoring in the first 30 minutes when got the ball from Wu Xi in the penalty, but his shot ended in the arms of Korean goalkeeper Kwoun Sun-tae.

The Koreans while having more possessions were reduced to kicking from distance with Lee Jeong-hyeop and Nam Tae-hee narrowly missing the target. They almost nailed the equalizer in the dying minutes of the first half when Kim Jin-su's cross almost turned into a goal.

The match was played in front of 37,000 spectators that included 10,000 police officers.

There is a bitter dispute between the two countries over South Korea's installation of the U.S.-backed THAAD missile defense system. China retaliated by targeting South Korean businesses and the country's tourism industry.

China must now play against Iran at Tehran's Azadi stadium.

Iran and South Korea still lead the Group A in the Asian Football Confederation's World Cup qualifiers with 14 and 10 points, respectively. At third place is Uzbekistan with 9 points, followed by Syria with 8. China is at fifth place with 5 points.

The top three teams from Groups A and B will proceed to the next round of the qualifiers.

China is experiencing a resurgence in football with its China Super League (CSL) able to attract international stars to join its fold.