And they’re off! Guangzhou Evergrande win the first game 5-1 against Shanghai Shenxin. Two goals from Elkeson helped see off a Shenxin side which played admirably in the first half but couldn’t seem to keep up with the Evergrande attack in the second. Eventually the depth of quality in the Evergrande team was just to much for Shenxin.
GZ Daily – ‘An International Women’s Day Victory, a Labour Day Score’
Lippi gets some kudos from the Guangzhou Daily for giving Zhang Linpeng the captain’s armband. It notes that it was possibly a sign that Lippi is bringing through the younger generation. Lippi though rather spoils the moment by saying that it was merely a coincidence. After leaving out Zheng Zhi, Sun Xiang and Feng Junyuan, Lippi asked the team who in the starting line up had been there the longest. The answer was Zhang. When Feng Renliang was brought off for Sun Xiang, Zhang took off the armband and surrendered it , somewhat angrily, to Sun however after halftime he reappeared with the armband back on. After the match, Lippi thought he had told Zhang to keep the armband until the end. The paper reports that the new captain took his duties seriously and after match took away the match ball, walking away hugging it tightly, keeping it for posterity. It also notes that he’s a fan favourite and is the people’s choice for captain.
Feng Renliang, however, was treated as a villian by the paper, which called Feng the campaign’s ‘tragic’ player. The paper further noted that he was also unconvincing during his Super Cup appearance. Xinbao newspaper (below) called Feng a ‘sleepwalker’. Lippi, though, believes that the player can improve with a bit of coaching, adding that in a match sometimes you want to change five or six players, but the rules don’t allow it. Lippi didn’t mention how many players he wished he could have changed during the Super Cup loss, but you’d expect it to be in double figures.
Xinkuai gives a bit more attention to Evergrande’s weak first half performance. In the first 20 minutes, the paper believes, the Cantonese champs were disorganised and Shenxin was unlucky not to snatch a goal. Only after the introduction of Sun Xiang did their attack become more potent.
The papers seem happy with the win but that also believe it is more of a lead-in to the more important match this week as Evergrande travels to Korea to play in the Asian Champions League.
For Nandu, it was mission accomplished with the headline ‘A Succesful Warm Up Match’. Although the fans were left waiting until the second half for a goal, the champions managed to play a flowing, smooth offense. The paper notes that Lippi was successful in rotating his squad and keeping certain important players fresh for the challenging midweek ACL fixture against Jeonbuk. The paper believes that the only worry is whether Lippi can get the team going at an ACL tempo, something they found difficult to do in the opposite direction last weekend.
Elkeson gets some much needed love after opening the season with two goals. Nandu proclaims “Elkeson grasps his destiny” and in some way the paper makes up for the rather unfair savaging he got after the Super Cup loss. To score eight goals in the Brazilian league is not a fluke, the paper explains, adding Lippi’s comment that a player’s first goal is always difficult. The paper goes over Elkeson’s poor debut in the Super Cup and other more successful starts that foreign attackers have had in Guangzhou, adding that he should not make the same mistakes as ex-player Renato, the paper ominously saying “Evergrande do not support idlers.” Food for thought for poor, old Elkeson.
R&F’s 4-2 loss to Liaoning wasn’t quite the disappointing surprise it may have seemed to be. To Guangzhou’s newspapers, it seems that the problems that exist for the city’s “other” side have been evident for a while.
The Guangzhou Daily writes that it was a disappointing return to blessed’ Yuexiushan where R&F enjoyed a seven game winning streak last season before moving to the rather distant and remote university island for the remainder of their matches.
The paper highlights the side’s shortage of defensive players and the fact that due to injury their numbers are dwindling. Regular defensive midfielder Li Yan was injured before the game and was replaced with central defender Zhang Yaokun. Nandu comments that Zhang, who at his old club Dalian was a strong defender, looked awkward in his new position and the defence looked scattered. The manager argues that he had no choice.
The club’s Brazilian manager, Sergio Farias, stated that he was dissatisfied with the off-season purchases even before the season began, and that their were no defensive reinforcements. The manager was even more upset with the fact that he lost two key players, Tang Miao and Xu Bo, to the national team over the winter break, only returning two weeks before the start of the season. Tang Miao, incidentally, gets a rotten review in Nandu, who were unhappy with his conditioning and stated that he’d lost a few friends in the R&F front office due to his wage demands.
The referee, quite rightly, is called out for two incidents during the match, including a disallowed goal and a strong penalty appeal. The paper adds that the referee was slow and disrupted the flow of the game.
Liaoning’s Ma Lin gets a thumbs up for outthinking his counterpart Farias, especially after they failed to defeat R&F last season. It appeared like Ma had done his homework this time around, despite losing so many assets in the off-season. Despite Rafael Coelho and Yakubu scoring, Liaoning’s defense played well and gave fits to the home side.
Nandu blames the disappointing results on old problems, i.e. the lack of defensive midfielders and Farias pleading for more of them. Farias was quoted as saying that this result had not been decided by the player’s performance on the pitch but rather by preseason preparation (see transfers and missing players above). Nandu reports that before the game there were three questions: how good are the new signings, how would Yakubu perform as captain, and what’s the mood in the locker room? The paper believes that all three questions were answered.
The new signings, or albeit, the lack of new signings in the 18 man squad should be a cause for concern, Nandu writes. Of the signings, Wu Pingfeng, Li Jianhua, Feng Zhuoyi, didn’t make the squad. Jiang Ning came on as a sub and Zhang Yaokun was played out of position. According to a reporter, Farias had asked the club to replace foreign players Griffiths and Jumar with defensive players. The club disagreed and turned the request down.
Nandu also doubts Farias’ choice of captian, commenting that Yakubu is not a natural leader. Although, the paper writes, Yakubu is a big name, he does not inspire his teammates to work harder. The paper notes, and I’m sure they were thinking of good old John Terry when they said this, that Yakubu is unlike English Premier League captains and is unable to affect the team psychologically and give them any drive. The paper describes that there were two situations when Zhang Yuan lost the ball and received a yelling from Yakubu. The paper says that Zhang simply turned around and jogged back with his head down, ignoring Yakubu. Nandu seems to think that even though Yakubu might not be the best choice of captain, R&F have problems with leadership in general and that they appear difficult to thread together.
I’s early days, but it seems the blue half of Guangzhou have some problems both on and off the field. The club’s goal is to finish in the top four, but the four goals conceeded to a lesser side is a better reflection of R&F’s current mood. Before the season the owner of Fuli had thought that they were capable of being a top 4 side yet the four on the scoreboard yesterday was a better reflection of the team’s current state.