A game of high quality played in front of a seething cauldron of noise, which wouldn’t have been out of place on a big European night, saw Guangzhou edge past Japanese outfit FC Tokyo.
Throughout the first half of this contest Guangzhou were simply sublime. There was a cutting edge to their passing, excellent movement, strength on the ball from players such as Xuri and an abundance of pace – especially from Muruiqui who was terrorising Tokyo’s rearguard. The only thing that was actually missing was reward for their endeavour.
On 31 minutes the reward arrived in style as Muruiqui flicked the ball out to the Cho Won-Hee on the right who centred his cross for Cleo to bundle home. Tianhe stadium erupted like an atom bomb with terrace surges and sheer pandemonium. The goal seemed to spur Guangzhou on and the remainder of the half saw wave after wave of pacey attacks on the FC Tokyo goal with only the final pass or shot found wanting.
The 2nd half was a totally different story with FC Tokyo dominating possession and the midfield although creating very little in terms of clear-cut chances. For the most part, they were restricted to long-range shots.
However, in a frantic final 10 minutes chances started to fall their way with glancing headers drifting wide, poor shot choices, impressive defending and a Lucas header against the post providing the crowd with real tension and drama.
Guangzhou, although enjoying little possession were, in fact, enjoying the better chances as on several occasions in the final 20 minutes they caught FC Tokyo on the counter only for Gao Lin and Muruqui (twice) to blaze over the bar with the goal gaping. The former was also guilty of drilling a shot directly at the keeper when better was expected.
Guangzhou saw out the remaining minutes of FC Tokyo’s onslaught and the final whistle sounded to the elation of the home crowd. The only sour note being that there were only 40,000 there to witness the game due to Evergrande stating that season tickets were invalid for this game and people would have to folk out 800-1000 RMB if they wanted halfway line seats.
Guangzhou have, for the time being, proved their critics wrong and put on a performance to suggest that they are a serious contender for the prestigious ACL crown.
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