UPDATE 1-Soccer-Bresciano on target as Australia beat China 2-0

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GUANGZHOU, China, March 24 (Reuters) - Palermo midfielder Mark Bresciano scored a goal and made another for Brett Holman to give Australia a 2-0 victory over China in a friendly on Saturday.

Both goals came in the opening half an hour as Australia, without a handful of their top players, made a good start to preparations for their Asian Cup debut by outmuscling China with a dominant first-half performance.

A better second period from a full-strength China side is unlikely to end the calls for coach Zhu Guanghu -- widely pilloried in the media and assaulted in Xiamen last weekend -- to be replaced before the Asian Cup finals in July.

Middlesbrough striker Mark Viduka had already tested China goalkeeper Li Leilei twice before the Socceroos took the lead in the eighth minute.

Bresciano beat two hesitant Chinese defenders to the ball out on the left and raced towards the penalty box, his square pass leaving Holman with the simple task of beating Li.

Bresciano doubled the lead 19 minutes later when he pounced on a mistake by Du Wei inside the Chinese penalty area and calmly brought the ball down before placing it in the corner of the net.

China played the best of their football in front of a solid Australia defence and failed to get a single attempt on goal in the first half.

“I’m very happy,” Australia coach Graham Arnold told Australian TV. “The first half was an excellent attacking performance. With a bit of luck we could have been up by four or five.

“The second half was a bit disappointing but when you take into account the heat and the travel and everything else it was a pretty good performance.”


The hosts looked a lot livelier after the break and Li Jinyu and Shao Jiayi both put chances wide before skipper Zheng Zhi’s free kick finally forced a first save from Australia goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer.

The Middlesbrough player had to be at his best after 65 minutes, though, to stop substitute Han Peng’s shot at the near post after Zheng got to the byline and pulled the ball back for his former Shandong team mate.

Manchester United reserve striker Dong Fangzhuo also caused problems after coming on as a substitute and China continued to put pressure on the Australia goal but ultimately without success.

“Compared with the Australians there is a gap in physical strength and speed,” Dong told CCTV. “Our collaboration was weak as we only trained together for a few days.”

The Asian Cup takes place in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam from July 7-29. China play Uzbekistan in Macau on Tuesday.

Writing by Nick Mulvenney in Beijing, additional reporting by Julian Linden in Melbourne