What’s the easiest way to win a football match? Play against a team that never really intended on scoring. That certainly appeared to be the case at Gongti last night, as it took Guoan almost 75 minutes to break down Qingdao’s defense and finally get on the board.
Manager Pacheco went back to the same lineup he’s been using for most of the season, with Zhang Xizhe filling in for the still injured Piao Cheng. Guoan applied pressure in waves, one time it would be Martinez down the flank, then Wang Xiaolong, next Zhou Ting, but when they got the ball in Qingdao’s final third, they seemed to forget what to do with it. Meanwhile, at the other end of the pitch, Yang Zhi was left counting the Qingdao away fans who made the trip to the capital, or maybe he was recalling a Street Fighter 4 tournament that took place in the Gongti dorms the night before, whatever it was, he had plenty of time to think about it. Take your pick for the best chance of the half, was it Zhang’s blast into row Z, Xu Liang’s painful shanking wide left, or Zhang Yonghai’s cheeky back heel off the corner kick that the keeper saved nicely.
Going into the half, there was some fear that in a tight 0-0 game, Guoan might get stung by a Qingdao counter attack in the 2nd half, but those fears quickly subsided when the half began. Qingdao only managed 2 shots on target all match, only had a single free kick, and went the night without a corner. When the clock struck 60, it seemed apparent what we were in for, every stoppage of play was likely to be delayed by another “injured” Qingdao player lying on the pitch. It was bound to be the kind of game that has you tearing your hair out in frustration and vowing never to come back to a Chinese game (just like I vowed to never drink again Friday night, then proceeded to drink again Saturday and Sunday).
In the end, it was Roberto to the rescue, coming on in the 69th minute and getting Guoan on the board within 10 minutes. The goal came off a corner kick that came to Darko Matic in the box, his back heel volley gave Guoan an open header that then found Zhang Yonghai, his first effort was saved, but Roberto was there for the rebound and his 2nd Guoan goal. Roberto also worked to set up the 2nd goal, playing a nice cross through the box that found a rolling Martinez for a crazy goal.
2-0 Guoan and a fun night at Worker’s Stadium that included a couple having wedding pictures taken and, of course, Stephon Marbury (for more on both and lots of pictures, check out my weibo). For those counting, Yang Zhi (and the Guoan defense) have now gone 452 minutes, in all competitions, without giving up a goal. Away at Liaoning should serve as a decent test next weekend, they went top of the table momentarily yesterday before the night matches closed out, but for now, it’s time to celebrate another great win.
Man of the Match