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AFC Champions League

Another game of two halves as Evergrande hammer Muangthong

Guangzhou Evergrande 4-0 Muangthong United
AFC Champions League Matchday 3
Conca 51′, 90′, Muriqui 57′, Gao Lin 84′
Attendance: 39,841

In what’s becoming a familiar pattern this season, Guangzhou Evergrande exploded into life after a frustrating first half to put four goals past their Thai opponents in their third ACL group stage match. Yet while the hosts were worthy of the three points, the scoreline was harsh on Muangthong United, who deserved at least a goal from this encounter between two nouveau-riche sides who currently dominate their respective leagues.

Guangzhou didn’t exactly play badly in the first half. In fact it took a clearance off the line by Phichitphong Choeichiu to stop Kim Young Gwon scoring his first goal for Evergrande only four minutes in, and it didn’t take long for the game to settle into one of constant pressure from the home side, playing a 4-3-3 formation with a high back line against Muangthong’s defensive 4-5-1.

By halfway through the first period, Guangzhou seemed well into their stride and they created a flurry of opportunities, most notably when Barrios nodded a Conca corner onto the crossbar in the 26th minute and Kim headed a follow-up chance over. They also had two penalty calls turned down around the half hour mark.

Muangthong seemed to mostly just be trying to keep their opponents out and get the game over with with the minimum of play, evidenced by three or four of their players requiring treatment for short-lived ailments in the first half hour alone; could it be that Thai football showcases even more in the way of amateur dramatics than Chinese?  As the Cantonese side pressed however, they were leaving large gaps in defense, and the visitors started seeking to exploit this.

Macedonian international Đurovski was instrumental in most of the Thai side’s counter attacks. In the 34th minute, he sent a long ball out of defense to Austrian striker Linz, and Zeng Cheng attempted to clear it with a clumsy-looking kung fu style kick. He failed, and Feng Xiaoting did well to clean up the resulting mess. Zeng did better when Đurovski sent Sarawut Masuk through on goal minutes later, and when the lively Jakkraphan Pornsai struck well from distance just before the break.

Slaviša Jokanović was surely the happier manager at the half-time whistle, but whatever hopes Muangthong had of an upset didn’t last long into the second half. Conca and Gao Lin had been Evergrande’s best players in the first, and the two combined six minutes after the restart to finally give their team the lead with a rare headed goal from the diminutive Argentinian.

Despite two good attempts just off target, Barrios had not really impressed in the first 45, looking off the pace and struggling to control the ball when it came to him. He played better after the break though, and made the pass down the right wing for Gao to cross in for the first goal. He followed this up six minutes later when he combined with Muriqui in an exquisite one-two for the latter to score Guangzhou’s second.

Just before this, Muangthong had replaced Linz with last season’s top scorer, Thai international star Teerasil Dangda, but his impact was limited as Evergrande strove to add to their tally. Gao was clearly desperate to get on the score sheet, with good chances that failed to come off in the 68th and 73rd minutes. He was finally rewarded for his endeavors six minutes from time when he received a clever ball through the visitors defense from Muriqui and scooped it over the onrushing keeper and into the net.

The Thai side had their chances too, with Đurovski shooting over in the 71st minute when he surely should have hit the target after good work from Pornsai and Artit Daosawang down the right, and Dangda and Masuk missing two very good consecutive opportunities right after the Cantonese side’s third.

Rather than a consolation goal however, the game ended with a fourth for Guangzhou. Zhang Linpeng had been causing Muangthong problems from set-pieces all night, and in time added on Dangda was penalised for dragging at his shirt while a corner was being taken. Conca coolly slotted away the resulting penalty to end the scoring.

Guangzhou will all but seal qualification for the knock-out stages of the ACL if they manage to beat Muangthong again in the return fixture next Tuesday, and their haul here will be useful in the unlikely situation of goal difference being a factor. The exhilarating atmosphere in Tianhe Stadium was upped a notch when the suspended Huang Bowen sought and got a rather more pleasant post-match reception from the crowd than that he had received from Beijing Guoan fans last weekend; all in all a very gratifying night for the home supporters.

Guangzhou Evergrande: 19 Zeng Cheng, 32 Sun Xiang (33 Rong Hao 68′), 6 Feng Xiaoting, 28 Kim Young-Gwon, 5 Zhang Linpeng, 10 Zheng Zhi, 37 Zhao Xuri (8 Qin Sheng 81′), 15 Conca, 11 Muriqui, 18 L. Barrios (7 Feng Junyang 77′), 29 Gao Lin

Muangthong United: 28 W. Koedpudsa, 40 Yoo-Jin Kim, 4 P. Wongsa, 2 A. Daosawang, 35 W. Kayem, 9 P. Choeichiu, 20 M. Đurovski, 21 S. Dagno, 16 J. Pornsai (7 D. Thonglao 82′), 9 R. Linz (10 T. Dangda 53′), 36 S. Masuk

Irish Guangzhou Evergrande fan, following them since I fortuitously found myself living next to Tianhe Stadium in 2011, reporting on them for Wild East Football since 2012.

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