It was a true tale of two halves last night at Worker’s Stadium: an unbelievably dull first half followed by a tense, action packed second half. In the end, the Men in Green came out on top once again, cruising to a 3-1 victory that easily could have been much greater.
In the first half, Chengdu did a good job of controlling the ball and didn’t play like a side at the very bottom of the table. Both sides produced a couple of chances, but nothing that really tested either keeper. It was most disappointing to see a Guoan side that has been playing pretty well in recent weeks in such total disarray in the opening half.
As has been the case at other times this year, manager Jamie Pacheco must have lit a fire under the players asses at halftime, because they came out fired up for the second half and played like a different side. Within 15 minutes of the half beginning, Guoan would be up 2-0. Goal number one came early, the keeper was too slow coming out and getting to a headed ball and Wang Changqing came flying through to knock it in. That’s two goals in two games since Wang’s been put back in the starting lineup, he’s making a statement to guarantee Pacheco keeps him in.
Minutes later, Xu Liang was hip checked in the box and awarded a penalty kick. Now, as much as I love Xu, since coming to Guoan his penalty taking has been, let’s just say not so good. However, Pacheco let him step up and take it, once again it was a mistake, the penalty wasn’t well placed and the keeper was able to make the save. Fortunately, it wasn’t all lost, Chengdu was stuck ball watching while Guoan went hard. Wang got to the ball first and passed it to Zhou Ting, who was left all alone in front of a wide open net, he tapped it in to put the team up by two.
Chengdu then started to get a little frustrated, and there were a couple of rough tackles and confrontations here and there. The referee let things get a bit out of control, but tried to reign it in when Joel Griffiths took a forearm to the face, causing him to start bleeding. The guilty Chengdu player was given a red card, after a bit of handbags, the Chengdu players continued hemming and hawing to the referee.
Perhaps that was why in the 82nd minute the referee awarded them a penalty. I’m still wondering what the call was for. If Xu Yunlong committed a foul it was clearly outside the box, Brendon Santalab clearly dove and that’s not where the penalty came from, unless it was because it appeared Xu may have touched the ball with his hand when he fell down. Anyways, Santalab took the penalty and buried it. I’m not going to deny that I started worrying a Chengdu equalizer might be coming, but in the end, it was Guoan who would get on the board again. Keita appeared to be pulled down in the box, but a free kick was given just outside. While Xu Liang may struggle with penalties, from 5 yards back from the spot, he’s deadly, and once again he sent a curving kick over the wall and into the net.
Guoan had a chance for a fourth, Zhang Xizhe went in one-on-one against the keeper, but his shot was right at him. It was the fourth or fifth chance he’s squandered in the past two games, I kind of hope we’ll see Piao Cheng in the starting lineup on Sunday. The Beijingers continue winning and now have arguably solidified their Asian Champions League spot as they head to Qingdao this weekend.