It’s been a hard run lately if you’re a Guoan fan. After the side put together a streak of three straight 3-0 victories, June hasn’t been so fruitful with three straight 1-1 draws. If Guoan has designs on a title this year, this can’t continue.
The atmosphere at Worker’s Stadium last night was cracking and spirits were high, the police were also out in massive numbers. Tianjin is famous for its baozi (steamed buns) and Guoan fans often refer to Tianjin and their fans as baozi, many Guoan fans were enjoying meals of these (especially the grilled version) before the match. The cheer when the starters came running out was especially loud last night, as fans were excited to see Piao Cheng back from injury and Walter Martinez back from the Gold Cup and both in the side.
Unfortunately, the high spirits were quickly crushed. The Men in Green had quite possibly their worst half of football this season, failing to create any real chances, often getting whistled for offsides, and also looking out of step at the back. Tianjin got on the board first when Yu Dabao’s shot from outside the box took a weird bounce and had the typically steady Yang Zhi confused. Yu’s turned into a decent Chinese Super League player after failing in Portugal, but there was no need for him to provoke Guoan fans by celebrating his goal in front of them, a very classless move.
10 minutes later it was an offside call that would spark a bit of controversy as there was some arguing between the coaching staffs and one of Tianjin’s coaches showed the bird to Guoan manager Jamie Pacheco, who responded in kind and was banished to the stands for his gesture.
In the dying moments of the half, Yu set up an attack off a long throw in, his back heel set his teammate Li Benjian free on Yang Zhi, who was able to make the first save but couldn’t keep a Yu rebound out. Fortunately for Beijing, Li was determined to have fouled Yang on the play and the goal was called back. Perhaps this was a bit of a gift, but we’ll take them when we get them as referees haven’t been kind to us much this season. The call, however, touched off a bout of pushing and shoving, as a bit of a scrum formed around the referee as words were exchanged between the players, the coaching staffs and a number of players came off the benches, fortunately able to calm things down. Even Guoan general manager Gao Chao was seen prowling the pitch to restore order.
An early change in the second half saw Piao come off for Roberto and much like last week, it was a substitution that breathed some life into the home side. Roberto came to Guoan at the start of the season on the cheap and he was only signed to a half season contract, but Guoan has decided to bring in “better” foreigners and Roberto will be leaving in a few more weeks. That said, he’s played hard when given the chance and has a
decent work rate and is well liked by the fans. When he cleaned up for Martinez who made a nice run off a Guoan free kick and knocked one past the keeper, he reached cult status amongst the fans.
For some reason, Guoan players seemed to have an especially hard time with footing in the second half, Martinez slipped on multiple occasions (including once at the end of a long, threatening run) and Roberto also lost his footing more than once. These issues and another stupid offside killed Guoan’s hopes for an equalizer, but there was still hope, in the final minutes of extra time, Guoan had a corner kick, the well taken kick found Zhu Yifan on the back post, but the Tianjin keeper was able to parry it against the post and away from trouble.
A 1-1 draw at the end of the day, keeping with the recent trend in the Jing-Jin (Beijing/Tianjin) derby, where dating back to 2008 the sides have met seven times and five have ended in draws. Guoan earns a point, maintains their 10 game unbeaten streak, and still sits in second place, not all that bad, but let’s hope July goes a lot better than June did.