Jiangsu came to Guangzhou as potential title contenders but left with their tails firmly between their legs, such was the lesson they were taught at Tianhe stadium on Sunday night.
Guangzhou looked fresh and dominated from the first whistle. It didn’t take long for the first goal to arrive with Gao Lin, Cleo and Muriqui exchanging passes leaving space for Conca to slot home on 9 minutes. Already, in the stands, fans were predicting a rout. Your Hengda correspondent was a litltle more conservative on that front.
Almost the entire first half was played in Jiangsu’s half of the field with Guangzhou enjoying copious amounts of possession but only creating several half chances. Jiangsu, for their part, got the ball in Guangzhou’s penalty area for the first time around the 20 minute mark, while their first real chance could have resulted in a penalty closing in on half time. A slick through ball saw a Jiangsu player seemingly (from my position) bundled over in the box, however play was waved on.
At the start of the 2nd half, Gao Lin was replaced by Jiang Ning and there appeared to be a clear and immediate threat from Ning’s side of the field. Compared to the predictable, lazy and under-confident Gao Lin, Ning was providing a real threat with fresh confidence and ideas and no lack of skill.
It was Ning himself who was to add Guangzhou’s 2nd goal on 54 minutes when he was on hand to dispose of Cleo’s drag back into the area. Guangzhou could now smell blood and they well and truly went for the jugular. The home crowd didn’t have to wait long for the 3rd goal to arrive, with Guangzhou’s array of talent creating so much space for their stars to operate in.
On 57 minutes, Conca and Muriqui linked up for the latter to go on a short, mazy run and scuff his shot into the net. A fourth was to follow on 61 minutes with Muriqui, again finding space in midfield, laying the ball out to Ning on the left who managed to turn his marker inside-out and then pick out Muriqui on the penalty spot who had time to control the ball and sweep home.
The home support were starting to revise their 4 or 5 scoreline expectation to 7 or even 8 goals. Instead, Guangzhou seemed content with their work and clearly dropped down a gear.
Jiangsu started to see more of the ball and Guangzhou made their substitutions. The game now became one of shared chances with Jiangsu and Guangzhou swaying up and down the field. In fairness, Jiangsu looked sharp with the ball during the final 25 minutes, including a well taken consolation goal from Qu Cheng on 66 minutes who finished unmarked at the far post following a cross in from the right.
However, the final word of the night fittingly belonged to Muriqui who notched his hat-trick when he was on hand to net a rebound after Jiang Ning’s effort struck the crossbar.
Guangzhou currently look a class act and if any of the chasing pack hope to be challenging them come the end of the season, then they are going to have to find consistency and some very special performances to get anything at Tianhe stadium.