With manager Jaime Pacheco’s job at risk, Beijing Guoan went out and put in a solid performance against Liaoning Whowin, but could only manage a 1-1 draw. Unfortunately, once again it was a case where the referee would serve as the major talking point on the night.
Pacheco’s desperation was felt even before the match began, the manager’s starting XI including Wang Changqing, making his first league start of the season, and Reinaldo, who has rarely featured during the second half of the season. Prematch speculation was rampant that anything less than a win would be the end of Pacheco’s time in the capital and the degree of stress showed on the Portuguese manager’s face.
The match opened as a tight affair, neither club creating much in the way of chances as both looked somewhat out of sorts. Then, just before halftime, a Reinaldo pass slid innocently across the front of the six yard box, a charging Xu Liang saved it before going over the touch line, then leaped over a sliding Liaoning defender and managed to keep the ball from going out of bounds. He then managed to get past said defender again and play a perfect ball that Wang Changqing nodded past the keeper.
The opening goal of the match was a thing of beauty, but unfortunately, the assistant referee flagged Wang for being offsides. Cue protests from the Guoan players and bench, with the managers even running over to the tv cameras at midfield to watch the replay (Worker’s Stadium doesn’t show any video during the match). Wang was well onside, a viewpoint confirmed by commentators from not only Beijing TV, but also CCTV, Guangzhou TV, and Shanghai TV. The offside call will go up there with one of the worst bits of refereeing seen this season.
With Pacheco already feeling like the world was against him and having used up two substitutions at halftime (bringing on Kanoute and Wang Xiaolong), things were about to get worse before they got better. In the 52nd minute, Liaoning scored but was called for offsides. While this looked like it might be another mistake by the referee (the ball didn’t appear to hit the Liaoning player, only touching the Guoan defender), it was far harder to determine than the Guoan offside call.
It wouldn’t matter, minutes later Liaoning got on the board when Yu Hanchao headed in an artfully delivered long ball. The placement of that ball was so perfect there was very little the defender could do, pure skill on both ends.
Desperation set in for the Men in Green, especially as Liaoning blew an excellent chance to double their lead at the hour mark. The home side wasn’t going to give up easily, and finally started mounting a serious attack.
They would break through in the 75th minute off a free kick. The ball, delivered in the box, was headed on by Kanoute, into the path of Wang, who created space for himself. His cross was well delivered, finding Andrija Kaluđerović on the back post for an easy goal. Kaluđerović has been out of favor with Pacheco and since Kanoute’s arrival, has rarely made it onto the pitch, so it was good seeing him get a go and make good on the chance.
The match would end as a 1-1 draw, a fair result in the scheme of things. In their chase for the final ACL position, Guoan was once again helped by a Guizhou Renhe side that doesn’t seem to want it, losing to Dalian Aerbin and reducing their grip on the spot to two points. For Guoan, the draw probably means Pacheco remains in charge, at least for another week, but the storm clouds are still circling.