Yesterday’s match between Beijing Guoan and Guangzhou Evergrande was a display of the Chinese Super League at its finest, a hard fought, well played match between the league’s two strongest clubs, unfortunately for Guoan, they came up just a little short, losing 3-2.
The visitors made a number of adjustments for this match, moving Xu Liang forward in the midfield while keeping Zhang Xiaobin in a defensive position and starting Mao Jianqing up top, meaning the Men in Green only had a single foreigner on the pitch to take on Guangzhou’s triumvirate of Muriqui, Conca, and Cleo. That trio made a lot of noise all night, Conca started things off with his first blatant dive of the night only seven minutes in.
Pushing Xu Liang forward turned out to be an excellent decision by manager Jaime Pacheco. Xu, who spent a number of seasons down south, enjoys playing in Guangzhou and scored during the visit last season. Tonight, he played his best match of 2012 and was all over the pitch, he opened up Guoan’s scoring in the 12th minute with a perfectly timed run, a searching ball found him in Guangzhou’s box and Xu put a good move on Zheng Zhi, getting enough space to knock one past the Evergrande keeper. It was 1-0 to Guoan and an early shock, but it woke Evergrande up and they proceeded to score minutes later. A good counter attack down the right side saw Cleo play a ball into the box, Guoan’s defense had Muriqui well covered, but they failed to have anyone on Jiang Ning behind him, Jiang left all alone rocketed a shot past the keeper for the equalizer.
The match was very physical, but the referee did a decent job of keeping things in check overall. An early yellow was shown to Zhang Xiaobin and Zhang Linpeng saw yellow himself after hacking down Wang Xiaolong for the third time. Guangzhou would be the next to get on the board, again through the counter attack, a Guoan corner kick was cleared well by Conca, finding Muriqui and setting him speeding down the pitch, he played a nice ball off to Jiang who then played it back to him. The ball wasn’t well played, Jiang’s touch was too light, allowing two Guoan defenders to get back, but Muriqui was able to do just enough to put it in the back of the net.
Both teams made early substitutions, Guoan in the 38th minute, taking off Zhang Xiaobin and bringing on Zhu Yifan, and Evergrande reciprocating in the 39th minute, with Gao Lin coming on for Jiang Ning. It looked like things would go into the half with the hosts up one, but Xu Liang once again stepped up, receiving a pass from Wang Xiaolong at the top of the box, putting a move on Zhang Linpeng, and placing a shot perfectly in the corner of the net.
With things being even, the second half started out very tight, neither team could really create chances and much like the first half, both were trying to catch the others defense flat footed and bust through. Wang Xiaolong stupidly overreacted and fouled Conca hard, seeing yellow for his efforts. Evergrande responded through Qin Sheng, who was guilty of a number of violent tackles on the night, when he cut down Piao Cheng in the 60th minute. Qin was rightly given a yellow for the tackle, but proceeded to stand up and headbutt Piao, it’s a wonder he didn’t see red for his petulance, one of the few mistakes by the referee on the night.
Guangzhou was starting to look all the more dangerous, a good run by Conca had him almost clear, but Xu Yunlong came in with a good tackle to deny the Argentinian as shooting chance. It looked like a draw was on the way, but Cleo broke that in the 67th minute. A long throw in into the box saw Cleo go up and head it in while his defender, Yu Yang, was cemented to the ground.
Pacheco made an unusual substitution, bringing off Mao Jianqing for Zhang Jian, who has only made one appearance this season. I’ve defended Mao at times this year, but last night his performance was a disgrace, failing to cleanly receive single pass or cross all night. Pacheco still had the chance to make one more lineup change and had the attacking Shao Jiayi on the bench, but he waited too long to make the switch. While Xu Liang put in a great game, he was dead tired late in the match and multiple chances were killed by him being offside, on one occasion it was simply because he didn’t have enough in the tank to get back. Pacheco finally brought on Shao, who was only able to manage one real chance.
It was a tough way to go down for Guoan, who deserved more out of the match and playing only a single foreigner were able to show off some of their Chinese talent. The Beijingers fall 10 points behind Evergrande and drop to fourth place. It’s not going to get any easier for Guoan, with R&F coming to the capital this weekend.