Dalian Aerbin delt Guangzhou R&F’s ACL hopes a major blow with a 2 – 1 win in a pulsating encounter at the University City Stadium. An early goal from Liu Yu added to a second half thunderbolt from Fabio Rochemback gave Aerbin the lead and despite Cheng Yuelei’s heroics in goal to keep R&F in the contest, his teammates at the other end only found the net via lucky free kick.
With Jumar at home in Brazil recuperating from what turned out to be a season ending injury sustained against Hunan, R&F’s midfield was further depleted by the absences of Rafael Coelho, Royston Griffiths and Li Yan. This left Liu Cheng, normally a right back, starting in central midfield directly opposite Seydou Keita, with over 100 Barcelona appearances, and Fabio Rochemback, also formerly of Barcelona and capped by Brazil.
On a weekend where the quickest CSL goal of the season was scored, Dalian Aerbin took the lead after just seven minutes. Fabio Rochemback squared a free kick to a completely unmarked Liu Yu whose effort looped over Cheng Yuelei into the top right corner of the goal. This got the 20 or so Dalian fans out from under their sun umbrellas to celebrate. Large parts of the home support missed the goal as despite recording one of their largest attendances of the season, 15000, many fans still turned up well after the first goal had gone in.
R&F replied but it wasn’t until the half-hour mark that their pressure generated chances. Zhang Yuan and Xu Bo both had headers saved and a spectacular sliding block by Rochemback prevented Liu Cheng’s shot troubling Aerbin keeper Yu Ziqian.
Despite great build-up play by Rochemback, Keita and Peter Utaka, Aerbin hadn’t seriously threatened doubling their lead until just before halftime. Keita and Utaka again combined to set up Yu Dabao but his effort was kept out by Cheng Yuelei.
It remained 1-0 at half time after a half in which the referee was prepared to let more challenges go unpunished than is the norm in the CSL and in which R&F couldn’t capitalise on their chances.
Dalian Aerbin started the second half very strongly and dominated the Cantonese side. Rochemback’s through ball allowed Utaka to beat the offside trap and the CSL’s second highest scorer looked certain to add to his tally but Cheng had other ideas. His outstretched arm got a piece of the ball whilst Utaka’s dive got him a yellow card and a huge cheer from the crowd.
In contrast with R&F, Aerbin weren’t rushed when attacking and coolly passed the ball around the Guangzhou side’s box looking for an opening. Utaka thought he’d found one but in fact all he’d got was another fantastic Cheng Yuelei save. Easily R&F’s man of the match, Cheng denied the Nigerian forward for a third time in ten minutes with another fine save shortly after.
All of his good work was undone though by some poor tracking back by the midfield which allowed Yu Dabao to pull the ball back for an onrushing Rochemback to smash into the net and double Aerbin’s lead. It nearly got worse for R&F as the Dalian side were awarded a penalty for a dubious handball after an edge of the box scramble. However, Seydou Keita’s penalty came back off the post.
Davi and Yakubu, R&F’s only two fit foreigners, both missed counter attack chances before the hard working Lu Lin was replaced by Liang Yanfeng. His floated delivery from thirty-five yards beat everyone at the far post and ended up finding the back of the net to cut the deficit in half.
There were still 20 minutes for Guangzhou to find an equaliser but despite intense pressure bringing numerous shots, headers and corners, they couldn’t find a way past Yu Ziqian in the Aerbin goal. Even the goal machine that has been Yakubu since his arrival failed to get on the scoresheet after several chances.
At times it looked just as likely that Aerbin would be the ones to score again as R&F were out on their feet after a game played in an energy sapping 30 degree heat. Aerbin remained composed in attack, possibly too composed as they appeared guilty of trying to walk the ball into the net rather than shooting when an opportunity was presented. This measured approach did run the clock down though and allowed Aerbin to become the first team do the double over R&F this year after a home win in June.
Unfortunately for R&F their next two matches are against the only other two sides capable of achieving this feat: Qingdao and Jiangsu. After this defeat which gives Aerbin an outside shot at the ACL, especially if fourth place turns out to be good enough, and earlier wins for Beijing and Changchun and a Guizhou draw this weekend, R&F must now win the first of those games, away to Qingdao, to remain in the ACL race themselves.