When the story of Beijing’s 2011 season is written, the club’s failure to win the title will come down to one thing, away draws. Once again, Guoan went on the road to face a team in the lower half of the league and could only return to Beijing with one point. In fact, the last time the capital side won an away match was the first week of May in Chengdu. The side seems to lack confidence on the road and can no longer produce the crushing defeats they were able to months ago.
Against Dalian, there was no post-Guangzhou letdown, the side came out firing from the start and created one of the most exciting 10 minutes of football I’ve seen all year. Dalian playing their first home match under new manager Nelo Vingada also helped excite the home crowd and seemed to energize the hosts. It was all about fast, end-to-end action in the opening 10 minutes with both teams creating plenty of chances, that continued for the rest of the half. Guoan’s best chance was probably its first, a good run from Piao Cheng who created enough space for Joel Griffiths wide open just inside the box, though Griffiths’ shot was high and wide.
It wasn’t just Guoan who blew great chances, Yang Zhi, perhaps emboldened by his exposition out of goal at the end of the Guangzhou match last week almost decided to function as roaming goalie Saturday. A few of his adventures caught him out of net and on one such occasion, it was only a goal line clearance by Zhang Yonghai that saved Guoan from going down by one. This allowed for the away fans, numbering around 100, to laugh at the mishap instead of curse Yang’s excursions. There was also much amusement as Dalian’s version of Rory Delap would come over to take any throw-ins in threatening positions, only to throw them directly to Guoan’s Yang.
As much as the first half was action packed, the second half was incredibly dull as it seemed the realization that this would be a draw lulled them into complacency, the home side especially happy that they could walk away with a point and keep themselves above the relegation zone for one more round. The most action probably included Yang Zhi again, who after making a free kick save was pissed off about a green laser being flashed in his eye and kicked the ball out of bounce in anger and then protested to the referee.
I wish I could talk about the last 20 minutes, but due to an asinine policy, the visiting fans were made to depart for their own “safety”. When this policy was made known to the supporters in the days leading up to the match, the main Guoan supporters group worked out an agreement with the Dalian supporters and Dalian Shide, the police agreed to honor the agreement, but then at halftime a new policeman was put in charge of the away end and he decided that it was best to send everyone out early.
The draw, combined with Guangzhou’s victory, mean the southerners now have an 11 point lead over Beijing, with only 11 games left, it now appears truly insurmountable and now Guoan needs to focus entirely on the CFA Cup and earning an Asian Champions League position.