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AFC Champions League

ACL Matchday 2: Guangzhou Evergrande 1-2 Buriram United

I arrived at the ground at about 6:30pm and was starting to wonder if the game was still on as there really weren’t many people milling around the Tianhe Sports Complex. As we got closer to Tianhe Stadium, we finally started spotting football fans. There were a fair few Thai fans waiting outside the entrance gate which included one of the most beautiful girls I have ever seen, although I didn’t know she was Thai at the time as I couldn’t make out her face paint logo (I asked my cousin-in-law if he thought she was Thai or Chinese and he hadn’t even noticed her! I hope that doesn’t say anything about my taste).

Anyway, as I got into the stadium the numbers in the support groups had started to take hold while everybody else was probably making their way from work or school. What I’ve noticed about Guangzhou games so far this year is that people seem to be arriving later for matches which suits me fine as getting into the stadium two hours before kick-off during the sweltering summer months isn’t much fun. Another thing I’ve noticed is that Guangzhou’s crowds are a little lower than last season (so far), although the ultras numbers seem to have increased.

Anyway, the ultras tuned their drums and voices and a crowd of around 40,000 took their seats. This included a fairly impressive 300 away fans who spent the game singing and dancing to Brazilian samba, house beats and hip-hop – the strangest actions of any football fans I have ever seen. It looked as if they had got lost on their way to a night club.

As the game started it seemed as if it was the Fuli game re-visited. For the first 20 minutes Buriram United cut through our midfield and defence with a mixture of precision passing, clever running angles, pace and power and Guangzhou could have been a goal or two down before they started to settle into the game. What was apparent was that Buriram’s local players were more comfortable with their roles and ability on the ball than Guangzhou’s, whom seemed content to give the ball to Conca, Muruiqui and Cleo and ask them to defeat the Buriram team. Gao Lin, who I had previously rated, seems to be going backwards at a rapid rate of knots. He constantly loses the ball, rarely completes a pass and can’t hit the target for love nor MONEY! Guangzhou supporters seem to be running out of patience and Gao Lin’s numerous mistakes are met with groans or abuse.

The 2nd half started with Guangzhou enjoying more possession and looking a little sharper going forward but the team seems to be lacking the killer instinct at the moment. Perhaps they are too predictable and other teams have learned how to mark the foreign contingent out of the game. With Buriram taking the lead through a 63rd minute penalty, Guangzhou substitued Wu Pingfeng for Gao Lin and threw the kitchen sink at their opponents in search of an equaliser. They were rewarded seven minutes later with Cleo heading home a cross from out wide. There now looked like only one winner with Guangzhou launching wave after wave of attacks but, almost predictably, the home side were left reeling when, with 7 minutes remaining on the clock, they failed to deal with a swift Buriram counter-attack and the visitors slotted home what was to be the winning goal.

After the match, the visiting manager had some sharp words regarding Guangzhou’s foreign trio, saying they weren’t any better than any he’d seen in the Thai league.  The visiting fans happily danced/raved/hip-hopped into the night, celebrating their victory while the Guangzhou faithful were left pondering a second defeat in the space of five days.



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