Kunming, July 24: China recovered from a shock early two-goal deficit to beat lowly-ranked Laos 7-2 on Saturday in the first leg of their World Cup qualifying match.
In other Asian zone matches, Thailand had a 1-0 home win over Palestine to leave that matchup in the balance, and Singapore had an entertaining 5-3 home win over neighbor Malaysia.
A humbling home defeat loomed for China when Laos went 2-0 up in the 32nd minute through goals from Soukaphone Vongchiengkham and Visay Phapouvanin.
But the immediate introduction of Yang Xu as a substitute turned the game around as the big striker scored a hat trick and China stormed to a convincing victory.
Another substitute, midfielder Chen Tao, scored two goals, as did former Schalke midfielder Hao Junmin.
China's state news agency Xinhua said the Chinese Football Association announced that coach Gao Hongbo would be replaced as coach after Thursday's return leg, and a new man put in charge for the round-robin group-stage third round.
The five-goal buffer should be more than enough for China in the second leg, although in the first round of Asian qualifying, Laos scored six goals in the second leg to overturn a first-leg deficit against Cambodia.
Thailand was playing its first game under new coach Winfried Schaefer and in unfamiliar surroundings of a new stadium in Buriram in the northeast of the country rather than Bangkok.
The sole goal came in the 18th minute when Palestine's defense headed away a cross only as far as Jakkraphan Kaewprom, and the Buriram club player saw his shot deflect off an opponent and into the net.
Thailand pressed strongly for a second goal to provide a cushion ahead of the second leg, but Palestine held firm to keep the deficit to one goal.
The two teams met in an Olympic qualifier earlier this year which ended with Thailand winning a penalty shootout but later being disqualified for fielding an ineligible player.
In Singapore, the home team's victory over a familiar foe put the city-state in a good position to progress to the third round.
Malaysia went ahead in the first minute as striker Safee Sali took advantage of confusion in Singapore's defense to poke in one of his two goals, but by halftime they were 4-1 down.
Veteran striker Aleksander Duric equalized in the eighth minute and Qiu Li put Singapore ahead in the 21st before quickfire goals just before the break from Mustafic Fahrudin and Shi Jiayi.
Malaysia hit back with two goals in a minute midway through the second half, to Abdul Hadi Yahya and a second for Safee, before 40-year-old Duric scored a potentially crucial fifth for Singapore in the 82nd minute.
There were 15 first-leg games being played across Asia on Saturday, with the return legs to be played on Thursday.
The 15 winners will join Japan, Australia, South Korea, North Korea and Bahrain in the draw for the group-stage third round. AP