Guangzhou head coach Lee Jang-Soo has been in the local papers this week apologizing to the fans and berating his players for show-boating rather than working as a team.
With this in mind, it came as a surprise to see Conca, Sun Xiang and, to a lesser extent, Gao Lin on the bench for Henan’s visit last night. However, perhaps a more plausible explanation could be the implementation of a squad rotation system to rest players and try new partnerships and formations: a dangerous ploy considering we’ve hardly produced many fireworks thus far.
If there was any team Guangzhou could have chosen to bounce back to winning ways then it would have had to have been Henan, who have had a dismal start to the season. Over the course of ninety minutes, Henan produced very little of note and appeared to just be making up the numbers. They look a definite bet (if you could officially bet in China) to be down around the relegation places come the end of the season.
Having said that, Guangzhou huffed and puffed for the first twenty minutes and looked anything but reigning champions. It was clear to see that recent results have knocked their confidence. There was a lot of lateral passing and very little forward thrust which seemed to transcend into the stands and a somewhat lethargic home support.
The game changed on 23 minutes when a flick through from Cleo to Wu Pingfeng saw the latter brought down in the penalty area. Cleo stepped up and when things aren’t going right you knew what was going to happen next. Cleo drilled the penalty chest height, slightly to the keeper’s left, which resulted in a fairly comfortable save. However, there was little respite for Henan as the balance and momentum of the game had changed. For the remainder of the game Guangzhou were camped in Henan territory playing a much improved probing, possession game complete with clever through balls. Muriqui opened the scoring on 31 minutes, latching onto a clever through ball from Wu Pingfeng and firing home.
The home support appeared to find some energy for the second half and roared on the constant Guangzhou pressure. Muruiqui was again on hand to finish off a Zheng Zhi rebound off the crossbar on seventy-seven minutes, while a clever backheel flick from my man-of-the-match Wu Pingfeng in the 86th minute provided the third.
All-in-all, a confidence boosting performance from a talent-packed Guangzhou side but lots more sterner tests lay ahead. The meager 32,000 that made it to the match went home happy, while approximately 150 fairly quiet away fans faced a sad trip back to Zhengzhou.