I hate midweek matches. I love midweek matches. The upside is that with work all day, I barely have time to think about the game, especially a big match like this one, so I just go to the stadium excited instead of nervous. The downside is that work can get in the way, and it definitely gets in the way of having a postmatch drink (or three). At 6:45, the 5 pm meeting I was supposed to have still hadn’t taken place and my boss wasn’t at her desk, fortunately she came back at 6:55 and said the meeting would be delayed until tomorrow, thank you lord, I turned off my computer, got downstairs, was lucky to find a cab and headed to Gongti.
I missed the national anthem and first few minutes, but got in just in time to see Joel Griffiths score. It was an excellent play, a nice give and go, Griffiths playing the ball to Wang Xiaolong, who then played a great lob past a completely out of place Dai Lin, finding Griffiths who finished cooly through Wang Dalei’s legs to put Guoan up 1-0 in only the 10th minute. Minutes later, Salmeron had a chance to equalize when he was left all alone in front of Yang Zhi, but he found a way to completely miss the net. A nervous moment passed, but there were still a few more in the opening half, fortunately they would all come to pass.
If you’re looking for where my post and ‘s esteemed editors will differ, the second goal is likely to be a topic. Guoan was given a free kick, Xu Liang played a quality ball into the box and Griffiths went for the header. There was contact between him and Wang Dalei, the Shanghai keeper, but it seemed more brought on by Wang than anything. The ball fell to Walter Martinez, Wang saved his shot but failed to save the rebound from Lei Tenglong. A big goal for the youngster who is only getting his second first team start.
The penalty is sure to be another point of contention. Just look at the video. It wasn’t a dive, there was definitely contact and the Guoan player went down. Was it somewhat soft? Slightly, Wang Xiaolong had the ball on the edge of the box, his back foot was kicked causing him to lose balance and go down. But it’s nowhere near as bad as the penalty given to Shaanxi last week, there was definitely contact this time around, and it’s the kind of call you’ll get from time to time at home. Wang Xiaolong stepped up and buried the penalty, Guoan was up 3-0.
And that’s the way it ended. After four straight losses, this was a big win for the capital side, made even better because it came against a hated rival. Who cares about 9-1, I’m more than satisfied with 3-0. Guangzhou’s victory to keep the difference at seven points wasn’t enough to dampen spirits on the night. It was interesting to see Wanda’s logo now all around the stadium, including a new HUGE sleeve patch. Right now it looks like only Guoan is capable of catching Guangzhou, but I’m not going to worry about that, it’s time to lift another bottle (fuck glasses, we’re in Beijing, the bottles good enough) and toast a famous derby win!
Ground: Hongkou Football Stadium, Hongkou District, Shanghai
Capacity: 35,000 (26,000 for football)
Honours: Chinese top-tier league champions: 1995
Chinese top-tier league runners-up: 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2008
Chinese FA Cup winners: 1998
Chinese FA Cup runners up: 1995, 1997, 2015