In the 88th minute in the game against FC Barcelona, Chinese striker Wu Lei scored a decisive goal for his team RCD Espanyol. The goal helped Espanyol to a draw against the Spanish La Liga powerhouse FC Barcelona with a 2-2 result in the Catalan derby. In addition to securing one precious point for the team and notching a goal on the scoresheet, Wu Lei also became the first Chinese football player to score against Barcelona, one of the best football clubs in the world.
The goal became a trending talking point on Chinese social media. According to reports from AFP, the relevant hashtags have generated 370 million views. The equalizing goal is the first goal for Wu in 2020, and his fifth tournament goal since joining the La Liga team Espanyol in 2019. Chinese football fans are praising Wu as the ‘only hope of the village’, and ‘Chinese Maradona’. Wu is also the sole Chinese player playing in the top European football leagues.
Wu Lei also posted on his personal Weibo regarding the goal: “Wonderful night, a new year, a good start.”
With a 2-2 draw, Espanyol remained at the bottom of the league and still face a struggle to defy relegation and preserve their status in the Spain’s top league. Their derby opponent, FC Barcelona, on the contrary, stayed top of the league table with 40 points. Despite being in a less than ideal situation, Wu Lei’s goal and the tie against the top team in the league can perhaps provide a morale boost to the struggling Espanyol.
The new head coach of the Chinese National Football Team, Li Tie, also commented on Wu Lei’s performance in his latest La Liga game, “He is currently the only Chinese player in one of the five major soccer leagues. I watched the game last night. He is the pride of Chinese football. I hope he continues to work hard and remain competitive.”
Wu Lei will be a key player for China in the remaining matches for FIFA World Cup qualifying. Trailing the group leader Syria by 8 points, China needs to finish either as the group winner or as one of the four best second place teams in the 8-group qualification tournament to advance.
The 28-year-old Wu Lei has been a player on the Chinese national team since 2010. Wu scored three goals thus far for the Chinese team in the qualification tournament equaling his record from 2018 qualifying.
There are four games remaining for China to advance in the FIFA World Cup qualification tournament. The Chinese team will need to bounce back from the previous struggles for a chance to qualify for the next round.
China experienced major changes over the new year after former head coach Marcello Lippi resigned after the team lost to Syria. Li Tie, a former Everton player and a former national team player who experienced the 2002 World Cup finals, is now the new head coach leading the Chinese team through this difficult period.