Big matches tend not to live up to the hype, there’s so much buildup in the days leading up to the match and when it’s finally played both teams tend to be too tight, not wanting to lose. Fortunately, for fans of both Beijing and Guangzhou, that ‘wasn’t the case yesterday as what we got was one of the best matches of this young Chinese Super League season.
Jamie Pacheco wasn’t playing for a point, he used the same lineup he’s used so far this season with only 2 changes (Zhang Yonghai in for Lang Zheng and Piao Cheng in for Zhang Xizhe). Neither team dominated early, but Guoan had a slight advantage in creating chances. In the 26th minute, Piao Cheng went on a good run and was tripped up just outside the Guangzhou box. Xu Liang stepped up to take the free kick and delivered a beautiful, curving kick that would give the Men in Green the 1-0 advantage over his former side. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much time to celebrate, 5 minutes later Yang Hao got his own revenge against his former side by playing Muruqui through into the box. Defensive hijinx saw Muruqui all alone and the big Brazilian finished in style to get the equalizer.
The rest of the half was less about offensive challenges and more about challenges for the ball that the other team took offense to. Things got rough between these two sides and more then one commentator expected there was little chance of the match ending with 22 players on the pitch.
At the half, Pacheco took off Wang Changqing in favor of youngster Wang Xiaolong, a move that paid off moments later. Wang played a ball that was slightly heavy to Walter Martinez, who tracked it down to the right of the box and played a one touch cross that a charging Wang headed past the keeper. A truly beautiful effort goal from a youngster Guoan fans are expecting a lot of. Down by one, Guangzhou created a lot of close calls, but Guoan kept turning them away.
It looked obvious that a Guangzhou equalizer was coming, so nobody was surprised in the 88th minute when a ball found Muruqui alone in the box. Zhang Yonghai overplayed it and instead of trying to make a stop, he ran back to play goalie, leaving Yang Zhi as the defender. This role reversal didn’t work so well as Muruqui rolled the equalizer into the back of the net. The goal gave Guangzhou confidence and they came forward in waves during extra time, but failed to earn the winner.
While I was obviously hoping Guoan could hold onto the 2-1 lead, 2-2 was a fair result for both sides. The last two matches have proven Guoan is as good as any team in the Chinese Super League, but if the defense doesn’t improve soon, they’ll continue to gift opponents costly goals. Pacheco outmanuevered Lee Jangsoo last night, let’s see if he can figure out how to rearrange the defense going forward.
Man of the Match
News & Notes
- Pacheco was very kurt in his post game interview, he didn’t take any questions and more interestingly, he mentioned that a player or two was weeping in the locker room after this result. One wonders who it was and also if Pacheco will take a Miami Heat Spoelstra-esque approach and say he was mistranslated
- Guangzhou will earn RMB1 million in bonuses for this tie, Guoan’s management is coming through with RMB700,000 in bonuses for the players after this match.
- For all the talk of Xu Liang’s free kicks (or 徐克汉姆, a play off Bechkam’s Chinese name) , this was his first free kick goal for Guoan.