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View from the North: Road struggles continue for Guoan

It was a rainy day in Shenyang as Liaoning Whowin hosted Beijing Guoan. The hosts had the better of the chances, but neither side could find a goal, both earning a point in the 0-0 draw.

Beijing made a number of changes to their midweek lineup, including starts for Manu, Zhang Xizhe, and Zhang Xiaobin, his first time breaking into Beijing’s starting XI. Jaime Pacheco also continued using Andrija Kaluđerović (AK) over Reinaldo in the lineup.

Your reporter’s day started at 5:45 am with plans of heading to Shenyang. After a late night out, the early time was a bit of a shock, but it seemed okay. What wasn’t okay was how difficult it was finding a cab in Beijing at that hour. I ended up walking more than halfway to the train station before finally finding a taxi, unfortunately it was too late and I arrived just in time to wave goodbye to my train. Oh well, plans change.

Instead, I watched from the comfort of my own home, where I didn’t have to worry about the elements or the home fans. The rain definitely played a part in the match, making an already crappy pitch even worse.

Liaoning’s aerial attack was far more suited for the conditions than Guoan’s passing game. While Guoan kept pushing forward, it was the high, searching balls played by Liaoning that created far more dangerous chances, pulling Guoan keeper Hou Sen out three times in the first 15 minutes to make emergency clearances. The half’s best chance came in the 20th minute, Liaoning played a nice free kick into the box that Miloš Trifunović headed towards goal, though it hit the post. The other most threatening opportunity was also from Liaoning, a high cross found Zhao Junzhe in space, though he slipped and though his weak shot was in the path of Yang Xu, two Guoan defenders wera ble to get to the ball first.

Guoan wasn’t without chances of its own in the first half, Piao Cheng had a dangerous shot knocked wide by a defender in the opening minutes. The Beijingers regularly came forward on the attack, AK had his best game so far in green, but more often than not the offensive charges were stopped by passes that were too weak or shots that never really challenged the keeper.

Pacheco, who has recently taken to making substitutions in the opening few minutes of the second half, waited awhile before making his first change, bringing on Wang Xiaolong for Manu. Many Guoan fans were extremely critical of Manu’s performance, but the Portuguese winger played decently. He impressed a number of times with his runs, though at times he held onto the ball for too long or his passes needed to be heavier.

The entrance of Wang into the match didn’t do much to change things, though a substitution by the opponents did more to help Guoan than anything. Liaoning manager Ma Lin unexpectedly took off Trifunović in the 59th minute, despite him being the player to come closest to scoring on more than one occasion (including shortly before being taken off).

With that move, Liaoning’s attack was significantly reduced, the hosts brought on Pablo Brandan for the final 20 minutes, but he looked like he was still suffering from an injury. Guoan made two substitutions in the final 10 minutes, bringing on Xu Liang and Shao Jiayi, but it wasn’t enough time for either to have an impact. Just before the end of the match, Piao Cheng played a quality ball in from the left, but Wang Xiaolong was a step too slow to get a foot on it.

In the end a point is a decent result, Guoan is still yet to put together a real quality road performance, but returning to the capital with a point is nothing to look down upon. Pacheco is facing growing criticism for the first time since coming to Beijing, but it’s mostly coming from the very stupid. Beijing remains in fourth, but if they want to move up the table, they’ll need to show their home form on the road.

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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