Last night’s 3-0 victory for Beijing Guoan was a strange event, it didn’t go at all as expected but in the end, before you knew it, the result was what it should be with the Beijingers somehow falling ass backwards into a victory against a very bad Shenzhen side. Few Beijing supporters made the long journey south to Shenzhen to watch the match, but in Beijing’s “Football Fans Restaurant”, which I’d always thought was a myth, there was a large group of us Guoan supporters gathered together in the aptly named “Guoan is Champions” room.
To be honest we stopped playing different Chinese “killer” games right before kickoff, not so much for the match, but to eat and by the time I looked up, a half an hour had already gone and nothing had happened. I’m exaggerating a little here, but it was just that kind of night. Joel Griffiths and Walter Martinez were both reintroduced into the starting XI last night and while they combined for some early attacks, Guoan never really rose to the level of threatening in the first half. The best chance for the home side came on a Piao Cheng through pass that set Griffiths off, he was caught by the Shenzhen defense at the top of the box but he threaded a pass to Zhang Xizhe in the middle, though Zhang’s shot was right at the keeper. Shenzhen wasn’t on its heels the entire half, but it seemed every time they managed to get around one defender, someone was able to step in and stop their attacks before they created too much danger.
When the match broke for halftime, there was an ominous feeling in the room that this would be a lot like a lot of our previous road matches where Guoan would be able to create chances and threaten the goal, but never actually get on the board. As the second half started and began to drag on, it looked like the capital side was in danger of once again dropping points on the road when they finally broke through in the 67th minute. Griffiths passed to Zhou Ting at the top of the box after a busted attacking play on what looked almost to be offside, Zhou crossed it low, Zhang Xizhe swung and missed, but the seeing eye pass found Martinez on the end of it, he knocked it in to put the visitors up by one, his first goal in a month and a half.
Ten minutes later it was a one-two combination between Griffiths and Martinez that doubled Guoan’s talley. From the halfway line, Griffiths played a ball to a sprinting Martinez, taking it down the wing and then centered to Griffiths who was taken down by the keeper and awarded a penalty. Griffiths stepped up to take it himself and buried it in the corner, finally breaking his own goal drought. In extra time, a nice give and go play by Zhang Xizhe put Xu Liang free on the keeper and Xu went around him to put Guoan up 3-0.
While it’s a return to Guoan’s 3-0 victories, last night’s win was far from the memorable or dominant affairs that their early season performances were. Instead, the side did just enough to take maximum points on the night, but never looked much better than their opponents. For Shenzhen fans, who turned out en masse, it must have been a tough loss to take, one more nail in their coffin hurting their hopes of staying in the top flight.