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Guangzhou Evergrande

Honours even in ‘fair game’ – Guangzhou Paper Review

Evergrande, the Nandu reports, were not able to give club owner Xu Jiayin a special 3 point gift after his election to the Standing Committee of the CPPCC National Committee. This may have been a blessing in disgiuse though, as special gifts are a strict ‘no no’ in government circles nowadays. Muted satisfaction seems to be the theme after the match. Lippi seemed content, saying, ‘It was a fair game’. The Nanfang Daily’s headline ‘A Satisfactory Draw’ is a good indication of the Guangzhou media’s take. Yet there must have been a feeling that Evergrande were overall the better team and were slightly unfortunate not to get the win. The Nanfang quotes Lippi ‘If my team works hard to win, but in the end they can only get a draw, then this is an acceptable result’. The Nanfang also points out that due to Urawa winning the other game in the group, Evergrande are now well placed in their group.

In 2012, Evergrande and Jeonbuk were drawn together in the same group. Much to everyone’s surprise Guangzhou ran out of the Jeonju stadium 5-1 winners. Could Lippi’s attacking Cantonese repeat last season’s emphatic stuffing of Jeonbuk? In a word, no. But why? What had changed? Before the game, ex-Evergrande coach Lee Jang-Soo had said that Jeonbuk were a weaker side than last year. Nandu scratches its chin and ponders philosophically, quoting Heraclitus, ‘You can’t stand in the same river twice’. The Nanfang adds that Jeonbuk had seriously underestimated Evergrande last time, and they were not going to repeat the same mistake again. Nandu praises the respect that Jeonbuk showed Evergrande in its tactics saying that they froze out Guangzhou’s foreign stars, especially Conca. The paper adds that the Jeonbuk defence played solidly and reduced Evergrande to trying their luck with long shots. The Nandu throws some stats out saying that the home team’s tough defence meant that Evergrande had less shots on goal than last year. Jeonbuk coach Fabio adds that before the game he had told his team that there are two ways to beat Evergrande, restrict them to long shots and look for cooperation in midfield.

Evergrande definitely had the better of the first half with Gao Lin, Huang Bowen and Muriqui missing good chances. Yet even with the bright start Evergrande found themselves 1-0 down at half time due to an accurately taken goal by Kim Jung-Woo. Lippi, the Xinkuai reported, blamed the goal on the tricky angle. The second half was a little more balanced, both teams hitting the woodwork. A well earned and well taken Muriqui equaliser was just desserts for a paitent Evergrande. The front two of Gao Lin and Muriqui get praise. Muriqui proved to be the hero again, neatly finishing from a Gao Lin through-ball and then, as most of the GZ papers point out, running to celebrate with the 2,500 travelling Evergrande fans. Rather like, Xinkaui points out, he did last year. Lippi chooses to defend Gao Lin in the Xin Kuai after the Chinese striker missed a few efforts on goal. Lippi points out that the striker has one assist and one goal in two games. He goes on to say that in the second half he would have liked to have changed the attack around but he had no strikers on the bench. Barri-who? I’m sure the Evergrande fans are asking.

All the papers report that last night was a homecoming of sorts for three Evergrande players. Defender Kim Young Gwon is from the area and both Feng Xiaoting and Huang Bowen once played for Jeonbuk. On the return to his former club, Bowen is credited with being a major part of Evergrande’s bright start. Another reunion was between Muriqui and Jeonbuk boss Fabio. Fabio had coached Muriqui back in their native Brazil. A big fan of Muriqui, Fabio is quoted in many Guangzhou papers as saying that ‘Many people believe Conca is outstanding, but I think Muriqui is the best player in the Chinese league’.

Feng Renliang got an appearance in the second half, coming on as a substitute with Zhao Xuri. Renliang has come under a lot of heavy criticism over the last few weeks for his below par performances, including being substituted before half time against Shanghai Shenxin. Lippi though remains confident in the player, stating that ‘If I were to abandon players due to a poor performance in their last game, then I would have dropped the whole team after the Super Cup’.

The Guangzhou Daily somewhat wryly writes that Lippi and Jeonbuk coach Fabio ‘chatted for a while’ at the final whistle, from the TV pictures it looked at times that Lippi wasn’t looking for conversation. Lippi had become incensed that the Jeonbuk players had not only kept the ball in play when Feng Jiaoting was injured after being caught in a late challenge and even when they did, due to a defensive clearance, they asked for the ball to be played back to them from the resulting Evergrande throw in. ‘that makes me mad’ the Nandu quotes an irate Lippi. Another angry coach last night was Jeonbuk’s Fabio. The Nandu reports in a slightly tense post match press conference he became visibly riled after being asked by a Chinese journalist if there were any connections between that night’s match with last year’s shock loss. Fabio, the Nandu describes, didn’t take to the question too kindly ‘The first match you won 5-1, the second we retaliated and won 3-1, this match we drew 1-1, what do you think?’. The journalist declined to comment.

I write about Guangzhou football, Red Blue and Green, I lean towards Guangdong Sunray Cave though. Main team is Tottenham Hotspur and have never gotten over Jurgen Klinsmann's exit. Born a Cockney but raised in and around Manchester. Used to work for Manchester United when I was a student and yes, I watched Sun Jihai play for Manchester City. Happy Days!

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