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Chinese Super League

Evergrande do just enough to see off Dalian

Dalian Aerbin 1-2 Guangzhou Evergrande
Chinese Super League round 5
Hoarau 72′ ; Elkeson 48′ Barrios 64′

Firstly, sorry if you’re expecting your usual correspondent GZ Biffo, he is at this very moment tormenting some poor R&F fans.

So, for one week only, here’s my take on Evergrande. If winning championships are all about grinding out results, even when not playing particularly well, Evergrande may look to games like this at the end of the season to see how they won it.

It’s a long way until the finish line though and on this showing a lot of mid-table CSL clubs may take heart from how Dalian gave Evergrande a good game. With expectations raised in the Asian Champions League, the domestic league has taken a bit of back seat for Evergrande and their performances overall in the league, especially away, have lacked a certain cutting edge.

Evergrande continued their trend of subdued first half performances and seemed unable to find any kind of rhythm. Dalian’s physicality seemed to cause problems and Evergrande looked to be unable to cope with Dalian’s early attacking play. It wasn’t pretty stuff in the opening exchanges and the ball was in the air just as much as it was on the ground. Dalian seemed to have the edge over Evergrande as both sides battled for control of the game.

At times it seemed that Evergrande slightly backed off from Dalian in the first half. The usual overlapping runs of Zhang Linpeng and Sun Xiang weren’t there and the midfield three of Huang Bowen, Zheng Zhi and Qin Sheng found it difficult to get the ball to Evergrande’s attacking line. There was hesitancy and a certain lack of urgency from Evergrande. It could be argued that without their Argentinean midfield maestro Conca, who was away looking after his ill son, it took time for Evergrande to adjust.

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Being a sporting lot, Evergrande play Dalian with one defender.

Dalian had the better of the first half and may feel that they should have gone into half-time a goal up when Nigerian Peter Utaka shot wide after a Dalian goal kick caused confusion in the Evergrande back four. It was a poor shot and one which the Nigerian won’t want to watch again. The chance though highlighted how fragile Evergrande can be at the back. Feng Xiaoting and Kim Young-gwon seem to have communication issues and both Zhang Linpeng and Sun Xiang are beatable on the turn.

Dalian played well though and with Conca missing it meant that an obvious focus and attacking threat wasn’t there. This allowed them to play a little more freely than Evergrande’s opponents have done so far this season. Yet even with the better of the play, Dalian managed only one shot on target out of six. Evergrande’s first forty five minutes were summed up when Muriqui and Qin Sheng leapt to head an innocuous looking long ball. Both missed the ball and headbutted each other, leading to Qin Sheng being substituted at half time. Evergrande trudged off at half time without a shot on goal

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Lingpeng and Guillaume Hoarau perform some form of bizarre performance art while the teams play around them

With the introduction of Rong Hao at the start of the second half for Qin Sheng, Guangzhou seemed a bit more adventurous in attack and lost their first half caginess. This new spirit of adventure was awarded just after the break when a cross from Barrios found Elkeson free just past the far post. The Brazilian cooly volleyed home his 7th league goal of the season. With Guangzhou now a goal to the good, the game started to pick up. Provider turned scorer in the 64th minute when Barrios headed in a Huang corner to make it 2-0. It was Barrios’ first goal of the season in the league and much needed after being overshadowed somewhat by his attacking colleagues Elkeson, Muriqui and Gao Lin.

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Defending 101 – Don’t leave the league’s top scorer unmarked in the box.

The second half was not all Evergrande. Dalian got a deserved goal after 72 minutes when an accurate cross was headed past a floundering Zeng Cheng by Frenchman Guillaume Hoarau. Hoarau had been a menace to Evergrande all game and showed a bit of ‘Cantona-esque’ gaelic cool, walking back to the centre circle after the goal without celebration. There seemed to be some argument as to whether Elkeosn had been fouled just before the cross but the ref waved away the protests and the goal stood. Dalian were fighting a rising tide in the second half but fought well against a resurgent Evergrande.

In the end, Evergrande got three points from what could have ended up being a potentially tricky tie. Having glimpsed a Conca-less Guangzhou, thoughts may turn to who will fill the gap after he leaves, as is predicted for the summer and the pressure they’re going to have on their shoulders.

Overall, Evergrande just had that extra amount of quality and were able to finish when it mattered. Rong Hao seemed influential and brought some familiarity to Guangzhou’s attack. If Dalian had scored in the first half it may have been a different story but they should take heart that they were able to give last year’s champions a good scare. Dalian fans were in fine voice for the whole game, and hopefully left the stadium happy that their team acquitted themselves well.

Dalian Aerbin: 13 – Liu Weiguo / 27 – Liu Yu – Jin Pengxiang, 2 – Yang Boyu, 3 – Zhao Hejing / 10 – Chen Tao (74 minutes, 29 – Sun Bo), 20 – Keita, 6 – Zhu Xiaogang/ 11 – Utaka, 9 – Hoarau, 22 – Yu Dabao (90 minutes, 19 – Dong Xuesheng)

Guangzhou Hengda starting: 19 – Zeng Cheng / 5 – Zhang Lin Peng, 28 – Kim Young-gwon right 32 – Sun Xiang, 6 – Feng Xiaoting / 8 – Qin Sheng (46 minutes, 33 – Rong Hao), 10 – Zheng Zhi, 16 – Huang Bowen / 18 – Barrios, 11 – Muriqui (78 minutes, 29 – Gao Lin), 9 – Elkeson (89 minutes, 7 – Feng Junyan

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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