Chinese fans and media greeted the national team's thumping 6-1 win over Vietnam with a mixture of joy and relief on Thursday, as embattled caretaker coach Yin Tiesheng quit after a rocky six weeks in charge.
The commanding home win in Hangzhou on Wednesday put China at the top of their qualifying group for the 2011 Asian Cup finals, and gave local fans some much-needed cheer ahead of the lunar New Year holiday next week.
"China sends new year wishes early," the headline in the Beijing News said.
"Grateful to the national soccer team ... for not spoiling the party for fans about to celebrate the New Year," a report posted on web portal Netease said.
Chinese soccer fans endured a miserable year in 2008, with the Olympic side knocked out of the group stages of the Beijing Games in August and the national side bundled out of the preliminaries for the 2010 World Cup finals.
The start of 2009 had also brought little succour, with China slumping to defeats in a friendly with Iran and their 3-2 away loss in their opening Asian Cup qualifier against Syria last week.
The rare taste of victory on Wednesday saw Chinese fans surround the team bus after the match, to throw garlands rather than the usual missiles, one local newspaper reported.
Yin, appointed caretaker coach last month and charged with steering China through the opening two Asian qualifiers, was relieved to finish his term on a high.
"There has been a lot of pleasure and a lot of pain in the 44 days' work, but I am satisfied to be able to finish with a win," the Beijing News quoted Yin as saying.
China, who formally sacked their much derided soccer chief Xie Yalong last week, have yet to appoint a replacement for Yin.
Xie's successor Nan Yong warned players not to get ahead of themselves as they head home for New Year holidays.
"Thanks to the players for their hard work ... but I hope everybody keeps a cool head," Nan said.