Sunday afternoon’s match was one of those very bad Chinese Super League experiences, leaving me feeling so dirty I wanted to run to the showers afterword. Fortunately, Qingdao’s ground is less than 10 minutes from the beach, so after buying a plastic bag full of beer (a very local thing) and heading to the beach, I was quickly feeling better.
Unfortunately, the Guoan players shouldn’t be feeling good. This was one of their worst performances all year and nobody can avoid the blame for this one. Despite being 20 matches into the season, it appeared this was the first time these players were playing with each other and completely lacked composure.
It took Qingdao 10 minutes to get on the board, a cross attempt was deflected by Zhang Yonghai, but unluckily fell to Qingdao forward Song Wenjie who headed it past an unsuspecting, stunned Yang Zhi. A Qingdao free kick at the 25 minute mark hit the post, saving a once again stuck in place Yang.
Down by one, the Men in Green started to forget how to play football and instead starting forcing things too much. Passes missed their targets, either flying wide or turned over to the opposition, the team gave up its game plan. Earlier in the year I was praising the Pacheco revolution that the manager put into place, a new brand of stylish, passing football that sometimes led to double digits passes before a goal was scored. Instead, they reverted back to the bad old days of last year, trying to play the ball over the defender’s head to their speedier forwards. Unfortunately, long ball doesn’t work when the defender is 1.86 meters and the striker, Walter Martinez, is only 1.68 meters.It didn’t help that the referee was insistent on stopping the flow of play at every possible point, needlessly calling ticky tack fouls and was into a little home cooking. The ludicrous pushing incident between Xu Liang and a Qingdao player (shown in the highlights) was downright laughable, Xu, a highly experienced player should have had his head in the game more, but didn’t deserve a card for what happened. With a number of important games coming up, the intensity of the match and the players anger at the referee (along with the crap refereeing) unfortunately influenced Pacheco a little too much, taking off both Joel Griffiths and Xu shortly after they saw yellow.
The Griffiths substitution was the biggest head scratcher, down a goal Pacheco took off Guoan’s lone striker for a midfielder, moving Martinez into a forward position. Everyone was wondering when Keita would come on and take over up front, but Xu’s yellow saw him being taken off for like, Zhu Yifan coming on. This wasn’t the best strategy for trying to go for a win and Guoan failed to produce very much until the final minutes of added time, but a Martinez header was straight at the goalie and Piao Cheng’s continued refusal to shoot cost the side.
A disappointing result against an average side, while Qingdao’s not the easiest place to go, Guoan simply weren’t in the game. It’s not the first time the side has pressed too hard and lost their form. If this was a month ago, I’d be angry, but at this point, the title race is over and the failure of the other clubs made it seem like the capital side still has a grasp on an Asian Champions League spot.