Guangzhou Evergrande drew 1-1 at Worker’s Stadium against a stubborn Beijing Guoan side on Friday night. The match’s can be summed up with a good old footballing cliche, it was a game of two halves.
In his appraisal, Evergrande manager Marcello Lippi summarized that the first half belonged to Beijing and the second half belonged to Evergrande. Although not a bad result, their poor first half performance puzzles the Xinkuai newspaper, which came to the conclusion that it was the fierce tackling of the northerners and the cold Beijing climate which unnerved Evergrande. Lippi, though, thought it was more due to Beijing’s determination rather than the weather. After going into half time down a goal, Evergrande were eventually saved by Elkeson, or ‘The Red Cannon’ as the Information Times dubs him, who was gifted his sixth goal in three games by the Guoan defense.
The temperatures didn’t cool any hot heads, the Information Times reports, and the Australian referee was kept busy. From the start of the game, Conca was given a rough time by the Beijing players and after a early few tumbles became visably frustrated by the Australian’s relaxed refereeing and struck out at Zhang Xizhe. The Information Times writes that the two teams were not used to the “Commonwealth System” where the norm is for the referee to be more lenient to aggressive play. Zhao Xuri seemed to test that theory at the very end of the game by slapping Zhang Xinxin. If the actual slap was bad enough, Zhang Xinxin’s delayed tumble and Zhao Xuri’s feigned surprise at the red card gave an already bitter game a humorous ending. In Nandu, Lippi argues that Zhao Xuri had only tried to push away Zhang Xinxin’s hand, but the now Oscar nominated video evidence is damming for both involved.
It was a bitter sweet (coke tasting) return for Guoan’s hated son Huang Bowen who received rough treatment from the Guoan fans from the moment he stepped off the team coach. Xinkuai, in keeping with the Easter period, goes with a biblical slant and writes that, to Guoan fans Huang is Judas. Other papers just call him a plain old traitor. Huang’s futile post-match lap around the pitch to thank/beg forgiveness from the Beijing fans seemed to be met with slight indifference from the Guangzhou papers. They all describe Huang as a bit of a sad figure who went with the best intentions, but was given short shrift by the Gongti fans. Nandu rather poetically ends with “the sad lonely figure disappeared down the tunnel, having been given a sad exit for the first time.” Aw, almost makes you feel sorry for the lying, treacherous scumbag, doesn’t it?
Owner Zhang Li, who celebrated his 60th birthday a few days ago, seems not to have wished hard enough when blowing out his birthday cake candles. R&F lost 2-0 to Shandong and added a third straight loss to a miserable run of form. Xinkuai is indignant, screaming at the sky with fists clenched, that a team that once was the dark horse of the CSL are now fish bellies! (It turns out that Fish Belly is a Chinese term for something weak and easily overcome, or in English, ‘R&F’) Talking of bellies, it was the first game this season that Yakubu failed to score.
What’s happened? sobs Xinkuai into its half empty bottle of consolatory Zhujiang beer. The newspaper believes that R&F’s plight is down to two factors. First, R&F have lost their ‘dark horse’ status. They are no longer CSL unknowns, and other teams are now familiar with their tactics. With a stronger squad too, other teams now see R&F as a big player in the CSL and are treated as such.
The second problem is a mental one, Xinkuai sniffs. There is now a lack of confidence in the coach, Sergio Farias. Both foreign and domestic R&F players are dissatisfied with his tactics and team selection. One player who would agree with that assessment is Xu Bo who posted on Sina Weibo that “the Evergrande-Guoan game looked enjoyable and passionate, two sides organised in attack and defence.That’s what I call a game! We had the same, but now?” Ouch. Could the season turn into a relegation scrap instead of a shot at a AFC place? The Guangzhou Daily doesn’t think so, not yet anyway. It admits though that if the club isn’t managed properly they may just find themselves fighting the drop.
Farias received the kiss of death from R & F Vice Chairman Lu Yi who said that the club would continue to support him. Strangely though, it seems that club management has leant on Farias and “reminded” him of the talents of the Evergrande players who were brought in during preseason. Whether Farias gave some of the new players their first start to placate the upper management, we will probably never be known. It does however, go against Farias’ apparent stubbornness that Xinkuai describes and has been written about in Guangzhou’s press previously. Overall though, it seems that the Guangzhou papers agree that for the time being, for better or worse, Farias isn’t going anywhere.
On a lighter note, asked about the sending off of Davi, Nandu quotes Farias as saying that he wanted to thank him for relieving any selection headaches he would have had for the next game. For the time being, one less headache is a big help for Farias.