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ACL Matchday 3: Beijing Guoan 1 – 1 FC Tokyo

It was a hard fought but disappointing match for Beijing Guoan last night as they could only manage a 1-1 draw against Japanese opponents, FC Tokyo, at Worker’s Stadium.  With only two points out of the first three group stage matches, Guoan’s chances of advancing to the next round are very slim.

Playing in front of the smallest crowd of the year, a respectable 31,000 plus that included the recently crowned CBA champion Beijing Jinyu basketball team, manager Jaime Pacheco made a number of adjustments to the starting XI in hopes of earning a victory.  An early chance fell to one of those new starters, Andrija Kaluđerović (ie AK), who blasted it high and wide.  On the 10th minute, Zhou Ting played a fine ball to Wang Changqing, another adjustment to the starting lineup, who was pulled down by the Japanese defender.

Pulled down might be going too far, it looked more like he was barely tapped, but in any case it was a lucky break.  Wang Xiaolong stepped up to take the spot kick and confidently put it past the keeper, then heading in front of the stand where the Jinyu players were and adopting Xu Liang’s salute goal celebration.

Guoan created a few other chances in the half, most notably Xu Liang forcing a turnover in a dangerous position and then ripping a 30 meter shot that was n’t well placed enough, allowing the keeper to make an easy save.  The other chance was on a long free kick, the ball finding captain Xu Yunlong in the box, though his shot was just slightly wide of the right post.

After having dominated much of the first half and preventing the Japanese sides counterattack that had so shocked other teams, it was a failed clearance just before the half that would do Beijing in.  Tokyo displayed some nice touch passing, in the end finding Iranian-Japanese midfielder Aria Jasuru Hasegawa just outside the box.  Hasegawa’s hard shot was well placed and just out of keeper Hou Sen’s reach, meaning things were all square going into the locker room at halftime.

Pacheco knew that Guoan needed to come away with all three poins in this match and so in the second half brought on Reinaldo and Mao Jianqing in the 59th minute.  Once again, Mao put in a decent performance, but never really produced anything that threatened the keeper.  The same can be said for the entire Guoan side.  An especially good performance was delivered by the goal scorer Wang Xiaolong, who was regularly taking on multiple Tokyo defenders and getting around them.

However, once again Guoan struggled to find a goal.  Despite controlling the match for most of the second half and finding space, the team still looked out of touch and didn’t really threaten with a serious chance in front of the goal.  It may be time for Pacheco to try playing with two forwards or make a similar adjustment because the midfield is doing the work to create chances, but the final touch is lacking.

In his post-match comments, the Tokyo manager attacked Guoan as having played dirty and saying a number of his players were hurting.  Guoan fans have an entirely different view of the match, perhaps due to the softness of the early penalty, it seemed the Iranian refereeing crew was very lenient in calling fouls on FC Tokyo, especially in the second half, letting some shocking play go uncalled.

Pacheco was resigned with the team’s fate, stating that Guoan controlled the match and played well, but a moment of weakness just before the half made the difference.  As for the team’s chances of moving on, he said, “Theoretically we still have a chance to qualify, and after the match, we are in the same position as we were before it.”  Guoan is still very much in the competition, but to keep hope of advancing alive, they absolutely must win in Tokyo in two weeks time.

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.

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