• AFP-JIJI

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Wu Lei’s late equalizer for Espanyol against Barcelona heralds “a new chapter” in Chinese soccer, the country’s media declared on Sunday, as the forward’s heroics went viral.

The Chinese international came off the bench and struck in the 88th minute to salvage a 2-2 home draw for the Spanish first division’s bottom club in Saturday’s derby clash.

The goal was a huge talking point on Chinese social media and a trending topic on the Twitter-like Weibo, with one related hashtag generating 370 million views.

“Wu has now become the first Chinese player to score against Barcelona in all competitions ever,” state-run China Global Television Network (CGTN) said.

The 28-year-old Wu “singlehandedly revitalized Espanyol” against the Spanish champions, CGTN said.

“A new chapter in history has been opened,” it added.

“For Wu, it was a night that will live long in the memory.”

It was his fifth league goal for Chinese-owned Espanyol since joining on a transfer from Shanghai SIPG a year ago.

State news agency Xinhua said that Wu’s dramatic leveler from a narrow angle “sparked a wave of praise from media and fans in China.”

Wu joined in the celebrations by writing on Weibo: “Wonderful night, a new year, a good start.”

China’s new coach Li Tie will be relying on the forward to help rescue the country’s hopes of reaching the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

“He is currently the only Chinese player in one of the five major soccer leagues,” said the former Everton midfielder in his first news conference in charge on Sunday.

“I watched the game last night and this (goal) is really something that brings honor to Chinese soccer.”

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