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Beijing Guoan

View from the North: Changchun 2 – 1 Beijing

Wednesday night was about next season for Beijing Guoan, but the picture it presented isn’t a comforting one for fans. After five months without an away win, Guoan fans were hoping this was going to be their chance to earn three points and go one step closer to securing an Asian Champions League position, it wasn’t meant to be.

Guoan came out looking strong in the opening minutes with big Keita as the lone striker almost scoring early, before heading in a Zhou Ting cross before many fans made it to their seats. This should have helped the young side gain some much needed confidence. However just 10 minutes later, Changchun was able to equalize with their own open header, a case of very loose defending.

The lineup for the Men in Green wasn’t the usual setup, manager Pacheco sitting Joel Griffiths and Walter Martinez, two players who are expected to leave in the offseason, and going with Keita and Francois Sena in their place. With Xu Liang out with a minor injury as well, it meant a young lineup all around. In the midfield, even with 30 year old Darko Matic, the average age of the 5 midfielders was 24. However it was Changchun’s youngster, Zhang Wenzhao who impressed, creating a lot of opportunities for his side and playing a role in both goals.

There were two controversial calls in the box on the night, in the first half, Piao Cheng was yellow carded for diving in the box. I like Piao, but he does tend to go down too easily, maybe its because he has some bad habits, maybe its because he’s just a skinny kid. On the play in question, there was most definitely contact with the defender, it didn’t rise to a penalty, but Piao’s yellow was harsh. In the other incident, Guoan got lucky, Sena committed a quite obvious handball in the box, knocking down a Changchun shot with his hand, but the referee failed to call it.

This rare bit of luck for the Beijingers seemed karmic, it was meant to be after all the missed calls Guoan’s not gotten over the course of this season, however that wasn’t the case. Guoan failed to get a winner, instead they were sunk by a 70th minute goal, their foreigner beating Sena to the ball (it seemed as if Sena slipped or at least misplayed the ball) and the third headed goal of the night, putting the home side up 2-1.

Guoan pushed for an equalizer, but didn’t come close again on the night. The three points put Changchun right in the middle of the race for a Champions League spot and also mean Beijing is far from locking up a spot, though beating Shenzhen this weekend will be a step in the right direction.

Brandon Chemers aka B. Cheng aka A Modern Lei Feng – is a name which may be familiar to many in the Chinese blogosphere.

He currently serves as Editor-in-Chief for Wild East Football and is one of the lonely souls writing about Chinese football in English for the last 10 years.

Chemers’ credentials are second to none – his former blog focused not only on the fortunes of his beloved Beijing Guoan FC, but a multitude of other aspects of Beijing life. He’s deservedly built a reputation in the Chinese blogosphere as an insightful observer of not only Chinese football, but also the wider picture of life in modern China and its many layers.

For WEF, beyond writing about Guoan, he often focuses on fan culture and the business of Chinese football.

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Yiddo Huayi

    16/09/2011 at 00:41

    While you say that the team hasn’t won away for 5 months, you still have the best away record this season after Guangzhou. Cheer up. At least you aren’t Chengdu!

    Take them out of the picture and you would have to have a major club implosion to throw away a 5 point gap with 5 games remaining.

    • bcheng

      16/09/2011 at 07:46

      Haha, you make a good point, we’ve only lost twice on the road this year, but still, if a few of the draws we’ve suffered through the past few months were wins, we’d be competing with Guangzhou. There are 7 games left, we have some tough opponents on the schedule, so its not a walk, but if we can win the remaining home matches and beat Shenzhen, it should be enough no matter what we do against Shanghai and Tianjin.

  2. Eric B

    17/09/2011 at 13:35

    I think during the past few weeks, Guoan’s players has realized their fight for championship just became from mission impossible to no mission at all. Maybe that’s why instead of actually ‘playing’ the game in Qingdao, they just sort of hang on in there. They need some time to accept this.

    But the game in Changchun is a wake-up call. There is no time for moaning now, the team is still a long way from locking up a ACL spot. I’m glad to see Ladji Keita finally make to the starting 11, which I believe we will see more in the following matches. Francois Sene reminds me of William Paul Modibo, a lot. Maybe a younger and better version of Paul, but still, Paul.

    In my point of view, Joel Griffiths and Walter Martinez are symbol of Lee Jang-soo’s coaching philosophy, hardworking, tough-minded, always-running, always-fighting. Therefore when they play in Jaime Pacheco’s possession style, it always feels like running IOS on Android phone. It doesn’t mean it can’t work out, it just feels weird.

    Guoan didn’t play a very bad game, Keita gave the best 20 minutes since he arrived in China, Francois had some moments and Piao Cheng showed some delightful improvement. It’s very clear now what kind of players Pacheco need next season. With better players, I guess there is still potential for Guoan.

    • bcheng

      19/09/2011 at 11:54

      Wow, the IOS/Android is a really great analogy, I wish I made it myself! I think the biggest difference between Sene and Paul is height, Sene is HUGE, he’s a force in the middle, whereas Paul was, umm, Paul.

      I think you’re right that Changchun was a wakeup, at the same time, Changchun’s a strong team (they showed it again this weekend) that really wants an ACL spot. I don’t think Guoan has a spot locked up, but I think they’re almost there. Guoan must beat Henan, its the most winnable game left on their schedule (well, perhaps some would say Shanghai away is), and then from the remaining matches, all they’d need is 4 points and I think they’d have an Asian spot wrapped up.

      I think you’re right, Pacheco wants the side playing differently, though a lot of the players are still in the Lee mindset, I really think the 10 months with Hong in charge were a massive setback to the team’s development. I really want to love Piao Cheng (as readers of my weibo can attest to), but he just hasn’t gotten the magic back since his injury, he’s all heart but he also seems to be forcing it too often, I think he’s always looked better when he knew he had Xu Liang getting his back than when its Zhu or Zhang in that position.

  3. Damian Jones

    17/09/2011 at 15:09

    In fairness, as GZ fans, every time Beijing slip up we go to our calculators and gleefully check how many points we need for the title. I think we’ll take the title on the 24th Sept (prediction). I think GZ could well dominate for a good few years and with Asia’s largest football academy opening in the city, China may well be looking for direction from the South rather than the capital. Good luck in your efforts next season though. More competitive teams will certainly make for a better leaguue.

    • Yiddo Huayi

      17/09/2011 at 17:45

      “China may well be looking for direction from the South rather than the capital.”

      That would be nice to see!

      Wonder how this might impact on the rural development approach suggested in an earlier post?

    • bcheng

      19/09/2011 at 12:01

      I highly doubt the academy will ever turn into much, it’s a lot of the typical hype for the media, but when it comes around to doing something, not much gets done.

      I personally don’t think Guangzhou will dominate next year like they did this year, I expect teams have seen the writing on the wall and will go out and spend. At the same time, Guangzhou’s been dominant this year, but if you look match-to-match, they aren’t all that impressive when they come up against the stronger sides. In part that’s due to Lee’s bulldog personality imparted into the players, in part that’s due to luck, I don’t think their luck is going to continue like that next year.

      What it really comes down to, though, is spending, are the other clubs going to put up the money to buy the necessary parts.

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