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Road struggles continue for Beijing Guoan in Zhengzhou

Beijing Guoan continued its road struggles this weekend, only managing a 2-2 draw against Henan Construction last night in Zhengzhou. Twice the visitors went down a goal and twice they fought back for the equalizer.
It was the same old story in the first half, Guoan struggled to produce any kind of offense with a midfield that looked lost and a striker who rarely touched the ball. In an unusual decision, Pacheco left all three suitable right wing candidates (Wang Changqing, Manu, and Mao Jianqing) in Beijing, instead choosing to play Zhang Xizhe, much better in the middle, on the outside.

An early chance for Henan that just hit the post should have been enough to wake Guoan up, but it didn’t do the job. The home side got on the board first in the 17th minute through an unmarked Lu Feng header. The fight Guoan showed in midweek was missing in the first half and Henan regularly created chances, almost always through Christopher Katongo, but failed to find the net again in the half.

As has become all too common, manager Jaime Pacheco made a first half substitution, taking off Zhang Xinxin and bringing on Xu Liang in hopes of solidifying the midfield. One wonders after a season of success in Beijing, why Pacheco keeps insisting on trying experimental lineups which he then changes up around the half hour mark.

Much like in midweek, the capital side didn’t really start to play until the second half when they finally found an equalizer. Guoan was playing long balls into the box for much of the match, but one finally found its target, Wang Xiaolong, around the penalty spot. Wang couldn’t control it, but his touch left it off for a charging Zhang Xizhe, who blasted it past the keeper. The goal came somewhat against the run of play and the equalizer wouldn’t stand for long.

In the 62nd minute, a ball was played into Katongo from the left wing, his one touch shot was fluffed, but fortuitously knocked right into the path of Lu Feng on the back post, giving the Henan captain an easy tap in for his second goal of the match. It was yet another disappointing defensive lapse for Guoan.

What looked like another unhappy away defeat was salvaged in the 78th minute due to a bit of luck. It came from another high ball, this time the defender headed it back to Henan keeper Zeng Cheng despite Reinaldo being alongside him. Reinaldo got his big boot on it before Zeng could grab it and it was once again all square. What’s more, Zeng had to be taken off the pitch, though it seems Henan didn’t have a stretcher, requiring the team doctor to carry Zeng on his back.

Despite the six minutes of added time, neither side came close to finding a winner and both settled for a point. For Pacheco, it has to be a satisfying result, his side struggled to find their footing for much of the first half and coming away with a point was a narrow escape. Pacheco needs to find a way to get his charges to win on the road if they want to put together a title challenge this season.

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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