On a night when security was higher than even during the Olympics, Worker’s Stadium was a fortress for Beijing Guoan, who kept all three points in the capital, defeating Japanese champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima 2-1.
Once again it was an unlikely source that opened the scoring for Guoan, who were pressuring the Japanese side from the start. Much like in the weekend match against Shanghai East Asia (and at about the same moment in the match), it was Lang Zheng who opened up scoring off a corner kick in the 20th minute. This time, the big man scored with a shot from just inside the box. The goal was much deserved after the Men in Green came close a few times before, mainly through Joffre Guerron. It was a great set piece play, Freddie Kanoute faking a shot and the ball falling to Lang, whose shot looked like it may have deflected off another player.
Despite Guoan outshooting the visitors, the Japanese side actually controlled possession, however they couldn’t break down the Guoan defense. The Beijingers came close to adding a second in the second half through a Kanoute rebound chance, but keeper Shusaku Nishikawa was more than up to the challenge. Sanfrecce would then go on to equalize in the 75th minute on a very controversial goal, when a long shot was deflected by a Guoan defender and Sanfrecce attacker Naoki Ishihara batted the ball down with his hand and put his shot past Guoan keeper Yang Zhi. On replay, it looks obvious that he used his hand, but the referee somehow missed it.
Fortunately that wouldn’t be the night’s last goal. Guoan put intense pressure on Sanfrecce, fighting for every ball, and it paid off when Piao Cheng beat a Hiroshima defender to a ball that was badly cleared, created space for himself and hit a shot low into the corner. The stadium erupted in delirium as the 79th minute goal was sure to be the match winner.
Assistant manager Slobodan Kuljanin (who took charge after manager Aleksandar Stanojevic was banished to the stands) said, “We are promoting attacking football all the time, and we hope to attract fans with beautiful and entertaining football. So far it’s been working well. We will stick to it and make it more obvious.”
It was a memorable night for all Guoan supporters, unfortunately security concerns meant that only 29,616 were actually in Worker’s Stadium. The win moves Beijing in a tie with group leaders Bunyodokor, both sides sit on four points, while Sanfrecce and Pohang Steelers are two points behind.
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