Revenge is sweet! Last year it was shortly after the World Cup break that Guoan went to Dalian and gave one of their worst performances of the year, one of the few toward the second half of the season that led to Hong Yuanshuo’s firing. Well, it’s a new season and last night’s victory not only served as revenge, it also provided a much needed 3 points in this early season. It also serves as a statement to the league that this Guoan side is serious, as they head into May with a number of “easier” matches on the schedule.
Guoan started out on the attack early, a beautiful ball by Walter Martinez in only the 2nd minute put Joel Griffiths through, but his shot was off the mark. Dalian didn’t completely give in, just a little later they were awarded a free kick in a highly dangerous position around 20 yeards from the goal, the shot was a beautiful curving ball, but Yang Zhi was more than up to the task on the night. It was a Guoan free kick that started the scoring, Xu Liang’s kick was played perfectly into the box where Griffiths somehow managed to squeeze between 2 defenders and get his head on the ball to put Guoan up 1-0.
It is an unusual game where you have 2 penalty kicks, even rarer is when they both fall to the same side, but when was the last match you saw a team take 2 penalties and fail to convert on both of them? That was the case last night, the first by Xu Liang was poorly taken and is his 3rd straight missed penalty. The second, Martinez stepped up to take but also failed to place well enough, fortunately a just-on-the-pitch Zhang Xizhe buried the rebound (and got his Pacheco hug).
Though they were 2 goals down, Dalian put up a valiant fight, but when Yang Zhi, in a moment of madness during an otherwise fabulous performance, came running almost 30 yards out of his net to beat an attacker to the ball only to see the Dalian player lob was barely cleared off the line by Zhou Ting, you knew it just wasn’t going to be their night.
Walter Martinez’s efforts last night really stood out, if he would have converted on the penalty kick, he would have been man of the match. He got what he deserved when he scored a great effort goal in extra time. Yang Zhi started the counter attack by throwing the ball to Martinez. Two passes later, Zhang Xizhe had the ball on the wing and played a good cross through the middle to a charging Martinez who made it 3-0 and helped Beijing get their revenge. The season is still young, but the way Martinez has played so far, he has to be the early pick for Player of the Year.
So it was 3 points for Guoan during what was an excellent night at Gongti. If May goes as well as it could, this team should be right in the middle of the title race when we hit the summer months.
Man of the Match