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Muriqui on target again as Evergrande virtually ensure ACL progression

Muangthong United 1-4 Guangzhou Evergrande

ACL Group Stage Round 4

Sarawat Masuk 53′; Muriqui 40′, 43′, Zheng Zhi 56′, Feng Xiaoting 86′

Guangzhou Evergrande put four goals past Muangthong United for the second time in a week to almost certainly ensure their qualification for the next round of the Asian Champions League. Star striker Muriqui scored the first two, bringing his tally for the competition so far to five and giving him pole position in the ACL top goalscorer chart.

Both teams started with the same line-ups in much the same formation as they had in last week’s match, though Muangthong were less defensively minded, with Pornsai and Masuk often positioned more like wingers in a three-man front line.

Gao Lin had a good effort saved very early on, but unsurprisingly it was Muangthong doing most of the attacking initially, with a deflected Dagno shot dribbling just wide six minutes in, and some incisive work from Kayem and Pornsai on the left. However as Guangzhou settled down, their well-organised defense meant the home side were largely restricted to pot-shots from distance.

As the half wore on and frustration set in, the Thai team became increasingly physical. The referee kept his cards in his pocket though, with Daosawang in particular very lucky not to get booked for a blatant professional foul on Muriqui 35 minutes in. Tempers began to flare, with Zhang Linpeng and Kim Young-Gwon coming worryingly close to reacting physically to subsequent challenges.

Despite some well-worked moves, Evergrande’s final ball had been lacking and they had little in the way of clear chances themselves in the first forty minutes. It seemed like we would again be heading into the break goalless, but it was at this point that the Cantonese team made the breakthough.

Muriqui (who probably had been kicked more often than he had kicked the ball up to this point) was set free on the left by a brilliant Zheng Zhi through ball and cooly slotted home with the outside of his right boot. Three minutes later the lead was doubled with an almost carbon copy of the first goal, though this time Conca was the provider and Muriqui used the inside of his foot.

At half-time, Jokanović made two changes, swapping the ineffective Linz for Thamrongsupakon and, more surprisingly, Pornsai for Buntao, with Masuk moving to the left. The referee also changed his approach at half-time, and Daosawang and Đurovski received well deserved yellow cards within the first five minutes of the restart.

The Thai side were pressing with renewed vigour, and on 50 minutes Zeng Cheng did well to just about recover from a botched clearance and save from the impressive Masuk. There he was little he could do three minutes later though, when a poor clearance from Sun Xiang rebounded to Masuk, who this time headed it over Zeng’s outstretched arms and into the bottom-right corner of the net.

Muangthong’s resurgence was short-lived; in the 56th minute, a Conca cross into the box was laid on by Gao Lin for the excellent Zheng Zhi to smash home from the D, and that pretty much signaled the end of the match as a contest. Muangthong had a few more chances that they could have done better with, but the direction the points were going in was never really in doubt.

Still to come were Daosawang being replaced due to injury (poetic justice, given he should by then have been sent off for persistent fouling) and a rare goal from defender Feng Xiaoting four minutes from time. The unfortunate Koedpudsa fumbled a Huang Bowen free-kick and Feng was on hand to poke the ball in to add unnecessary insult to the injury of likely elimination from the competition.

The result means that the Cantonese side will almost certainly be among those flying the flag for China in the knockout stages; Urawa would have to beat them by at least three clear goals in Japan in a fortnight for there to be any chance of them failing to advance. Muangthong United now have only one point from four games and will go out unless both they and Guangzhou win their remaining two games against Jeonbuk and Urawa.

Finally, I must put in a good word for the people of Bangkok; this was my first away match as an Evergrande fan and some of the horror stories I’ve read on about CSL away trips had made me a bit trepidatious, but the fans and security officials of Muangthong United could not have been more welcoming and friendly, nor more gracious in defeat. While both the home crowd and very sizeable Guangzhou contingent were loud and passionate throughout the match, this rarely descended into abusiveness (at one stage after a nasty tackle some away fans tried to start-up a ‘Taiguo SB’ chant but were very quickly and firmly shut up by others appreciative of their hosts’ hospitality and that was that); a heartening experience and a great advertisement for Thai club football.

Muangthong United: 28 W. Koedpudsa, 35 W. Kayem, 40 Kim Yoo-Jin, 4 P. Wongsa, 2 A. Daosawang (25 T. Puangchan 66′), 19 P. Choeichiu, 20 M. Đurovski, 21 S. Dagno, 16 J. Pornsai (23 P. Buntao 46′), 9 R. Linz (29 N. Thamrongsupakon 46′), 36 S. Masuk

Guangzhou Evergrande: 19 Zeng Cheng, 32 Sun Xiang, 6 Feng Xiaoting, 28 Kim Young-Gwon, 5 Zhang Linpeng, 10 Zheng Zhi, 37 Zhao Xuri (8 Qin Sheng 85′), 15 Conca (16 Huang Bowen 80′), 11 Muriqui, 18 L. Barrios (33 Rong Hao 74′), 29 Gao Lin

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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