Shuang Wang scored twice as the hosts narrowly defeated England in the opening match of the CFA International Women’s Football Tournament in China.
The striker opened the scoring from close range in just the fifth minute, turning home Peng Han’s cut back.
And she doubled the lead just before the break, with a low finish from just inside the box.
Eniola Aluko did reduce arrears just before the half-time whistle sounded, but England were unable to mount a second-half comeback.
On a brighter note, however, Chelsea duo Drew Spence and Laura Coombs made late cameos for their senior team debuts
Boss Mark Sampson handed a debut to another Blue, defender Gilly Flaherty, from the start while Lianne Sanderson earned her 50th cap and Manchester City midfielder Jill Scott ran out for her 99th.
The head coach began with a 3-3-4 formation, similar to the shape he deployed for the 8-0 drubbing of Estonia last month.
China, under the new management of former France boss Bruno Bini, started brightly and went ahead early.
Yanlu Xu scampered into space down the England right and delivered a deep cross which was picked up by Han. The midfielder pulled the ball back across the box and Wang poked a shot into the far corner, beyond Steph Houghton’s desperate lunge.
England’s first clear chance came when Aluko was played in by strike partner Sanderson, but the forward dragged the ball wide of Shanshan Liu’s right-hand upright.
The starting line-up for England in China
Izzy Christiansen, who made a goalscoring debut in Tallinn, then came close to reaching Manchester City club mate Lucy Bronze’s pull back when well placed, though couldn’t make a clean connection.
China raced down the other end and Xue brought the best out of Lionesses goalkeeper Karen Bardsley, who dived high to her left to claw away the midfielder’s 25-yarder.
Xu then curled an angled shot just over the top in what was turning into an open first half.
China had the ball in the net again as half time approached but the referee’s whistle had already sounded for a foul on Bronze.
However, with half time approaching the hosts did have a second and it was Wang again, who finished calmly underneath Bardsley after being played through by namesake Shanshan Wang.
England were thrown a lifeline in added time at the end of the half.
Some strong pressure from Christiansen forced China to lose possession in their own half. Gemma Davison picked up the loose ball and slipped Aluko in to the left-hand side of the box.
The striker produced a low, angled finished into the far corner to halve the deficit going into the break.
Sampson changed his formation at half time, reverting to a back four. Bronze went to right-back with Alex Scott on the opposite flank.
With the second half barely five minutes old Jill Scott came close to scoring what would have been one of her best goals in an England shirt.
The 28-year-old hit a looping, 20-yard volley which Fei Wang watched all the way and tipped just over the bar.
England enjoyed a bit more possession in the second half, though they didn’t have it all their own way as Shanshan Wang drove forward and forced Bardsley into another fine save, this time tipping around her right-hand post and behind for a corner.
Jodie Taylor was called from the bench for her first international appearance since the World Cup and she set up a chance for Aluko with her very first touch, only for the Chelsea star's shot to be palmed away.
The visitors could not create any further chances, although there was a moment to remember for both Spence and Coombs.
England’s last match in the tournament, also known as the Dewellbon Cup, is against World Cup quarter finalists Australia on Tuesday 23 October.
China: 12 Fei Wang, 2 Shanshan Liu, 6 Donga Li (C), 7 Yanlu Xu, 9 Shanshan Wang, 11 Shuang Wang, 14 Rong Zhao, 15 Jiahui Lei, 18 Peng Han, 19 Ruyin Tan, 24 Jiao Xue
Substitutes: 21 Lisi Wang for Han 56, 10 Ying Li for Lei 64, 16 Jiahui Lou for Xu 64, 28 Meizi Jiang for Tan 74
Substitutes not used: 1 Yue Zhang, 4 Jiayue Li, 5 Haiyan Wu, 13 Jiali Tang, 17 Yasha Gu, 22 Lina Zhao, 23 Guixin Ren, 26 Li Yang.
Goals: Shuang Wang 5, 45
Head coach: Bruno Bini
England (3-3-4): 1 Karen Bardsley (Manchester City); 15 Alex Scott (Arsenal), 5 Steph Houghton (C; Manchester City), 12 Gilly Flaherty (Chelsea); 6 Jill Scott (Manchester City), 4 Jo Potter (Birmingham City), 8 Isobel Christiansen (Manchester City); 2 Lucy Bronze (Manchester City), 11 Eniola Aluko (Chelsea), 19 Lianne Sanderson (Portland Thorns), 7 Gemma Davison (Chelsea).
Substitutes: 3 Demi Stokes (Manchester City) for Bronze 65, 9 Jodie Taylor (Portland Thorns) for Sanderson 74, 17 Drew Spence (Chelsea) for Davison 84, 18 Laura Coombs (Chelsea) for Christiansen 89.
Substitutes not used: 13 Rachael Laws (Sunderland), 21 Mary Earps (Bristol Academy), 10 Fran Kirby (Chelsea), 14 Claire Rafferty (Chelsea), 16 Hannah Blundell (Chelsea), 20 Beth Mead (Sunderland).
Goal: Aluko 45
Head coach: Mark Sampson
photos Janos Schmidt
photos Janos Schmidt