There’s not much that I can say about Saturday night’s game, unfortunately too much of the focus was on the goings on off the pitch, and because the two goals that were scored were at the home end, it was very difficult to see what actually happened. There is a bit to talk about, in any case.
Guoan sorely missed Walter Martinez, who was representing Honduras at the Gold Cup in the US and scored earlier that day. His speed and creativity, as well as the relationship he’s built up with the other starters, made a real difference. I’ve said it before, Guoan’s strong enough to match any team’s starting XI, but once you get past them, the side is somewhat lacking depth.
Henan doesn’t have a very good team this year, they lack the ability to beat most sides, but they are strong enough to frustrate opponents and pick up points, especially at home. The plan from the start was to focus on the counter attack and they did a decent job of it, just before Guoan scored its goal, Henan had their best chance of the match when they caught the capital side’s defense off guard. Just as I was sending a text message about how dangerous the play was to the wife watching at home, I looked up and Beijing had just scored. A nice setup from Xu Liang finding Joel Griffiths in the box to head past Zeng Cheng and put the visitors up 1-0.
Henan couldn’t produce many other chances, but Beijing came close a couple times, most notably off a beautiful Xu Liang shot that hit the post. Guoan was having trouble finding space, Pacheco made some moves in the midfield to hopefully open things up a bit, but it didn’t really help break through Henan’s defensive wall.
Of course it was around that time, nearing the 80th minute, that the controversial penalty happened. I’ve read all the complaints from the Guoan players, but I’ve yet to see a video that shows the incident from an angle other than behind. From the angle offered, it’s unclear how close Zhang Yonghai’s leg was to Netto, and awarding a penalty appears plausible. At least from the angle offered, this isn’t as contentious as the stone cold penalty that wasn’t in Shenyang a few weeks ago. Netto slid the penalty past Yang Zhi to make it 1-1 and end Yang Zhi’s streak at a round 620 minutes.
Before the penalty, Guoan seemed to be lying back a bit, but after, it was full speed ahead in a desperate effort to break the draw. They almost did too, some nice passing found Darko Matic all alone in space and with the chance to absolutely solidify his place in all Guoan fans’ hearts, but he also hit the post. After that it was obvious the gods weren’t with us on the night and that it would end in a draw. So a point to Guoan, 2 points from the top of the table through the first third of the season and a tough month is made that much tougher.