On the back of a Zhao Xuri goal, Guangzhou Evergrande defeated Liaoning Whowin 1-0 at home in the first leg of the CFA Cup Semifinals.
Evergrande manager Marcello Lippi appeared to be sporting a new outfit for the first time on the sidelines in China, perhaps to go with the “new” side he put out, having made eight changes to the side that defeated Changchun over the weekend. The most attention went to his change at forward, giving Lucas Barrios a run out after the player’s fit over the weekend. On the other hand, Liaoning kept almost their same lineup that fought Guoan to a 1-1 draw.
The story of the opening half, in many ways, was about Guangzhou’s attack down the right wing, with Feng Junyan and in particular, Wu Pingfeng, abusing the Liaoning defense. The best of the chances a good ball played in by Wu, though Gao Lin’s header was well off target. Barrios was never really involved in the match and ended up being subbed off in the 30th minute.
Liaoning wasn’t without their own chances, mainly coming from Pablo Brandan’s strong runs or tight passes, finding either Yang Xu or Yu Hanchao. Yang forced the keeper, Yang Jun, to make two tough saves, on one of them there was a bit of a collision leading to the keeper having to be replaced by youngster Dong Chunyu.
The match was a tight one and there’s some tension between the two sides dating back to an incident last season. There were a few harder than necessary tackles by Liaoning’s captain Zhao Junzhe, while right before the half, perhaps out of frustration, Gao Lin hacked down a Liaoning player (for which he saw yellow).
Surprisingly, and perhaps bolstered by the scoreless first half, Liaoning came out and controlled play early in the second half. It started out with Brandan setting up Yu, forcing the young keeper to make a tough save, then Brandan doing the same for Yang, though again Dong was up for it.
On the hour mark, Lippi shocked everyone by using his final substitution, taking off Wu, who was one of Evergrande’s best up to that point, and brought on Jiang Ning. Minutes later it was Liaoning with yet another solid chance on the counterattack, Brandan to Yu, who juked and weaved and got pat two defenders only to shoot right at the keeper.
Yet it would be Evergrande who would get on the board first, Muriqui was fouled and took a very quick free kick, shocking the Liaoning defense. The Brazilian passed to Zhao Xuri, whose long shot from just outside the box beat Zhang Lu, who could only get his fingers to it.
Guangzhou surely regret not going up by two in the 82nd minute when Zheng Tao came in hard and took Jiang down in the box, for which he saw red. Gao Lin stepped up to the spot, but his weak penalty was saved by Zhang Lu. Liaoning seemed inspired by the saved and put a lot of pressure on the Evergrande keeper in the final minutes, first with a free kick and then with two corners, but they couldn’t find an equalizer.
The second leg will take place on September 26 in Shenyang.
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