Guangzhou Evergrande 4-1 Liaoning Whowin
Chinese Super League Round 10
Elkeson 39′, Zhang Linpeng 61′, Barrios 66′, 81′; Edu 90+2′
Despite fielding a line-up shorn of a few regular starters, Guangzhou Evergrande eased to a home win over high-flying Liaoning Whowin in a game that played out like many others this season for the reigning champions. The only real surprise here was an excellent but ill-fated cameo by unsettled substitute Lucas Barrios, who provided an assist and two goals in 25 second-half minutes.
Evergrande lined up in their usual fluid 4-3-3 formation, but with five changes from the team that had beaten Central Coast Mariners in Australia midweek. In defence Rong Hao replaced Sun Xiang at left back, while Chinese international centre back Zhao Peng made his first start for Evergrande since joining from Henan Construction in the winter, with Feng Xiaoting rested. Qin Sheng and Huang Bowen came into midfield for Zhao Xuri and Conca, and Elkeson replaced Barrios up front.
Liaoning played in a more static flat 4-4-2 and started off with a similarly old-school physical approach, but the referee was quick to nip any over-enthusiasm in the bud, with Zhang Ye and Jin Taiyan receiving yellow cards within the first ten minutes, both for sliding in on Muriqui from behind. Unfortunately there was little else to commend the referee on, with a number of questionable decisions made thereafter.
The Northeastern side arrived placed third in the table after a much better start to the season than most had expected (thanks in large part to nine goals in as many games for winter-signing Edu), so most home fans were expecting more of a challenge than they got in the end. As usual for Guangzhou though, the first half of the contest bore little relation to the eventual outcome, and although they had the majority of the possession and Zheng Zhi went close a couple of times with shots from distance, Liaoning looked more like scoring before the break.
Jin took advantage of Zhang Linpeng’s tendency to push forward to initiate several counter attacks up the left, and the attacking pair of Edu and James Chamanga played much better together than you would expect of a partnership less than ten games old, with both having a few good opportunities to open the scoring. However it was Guangzhou that took the lead six minutes before half-time, with Elkeson heading home a Huang Bowen cross from a corner despite being under pressure from James Chamanga.
The second half was pretty much all Guangzhou, though initially the good build-up play kept being wasted by defenders and midfielders whose efforts at shooting invariably went high and wide. An Edu free-kick from just outside the box that came close to finding the target hinted at the possibility of a comeback from Liaoning, but the complexion of the game changed when Barrios replaced the ineffective (presumably due to fatigue) Gao Lin. Just after the hour mark Zhang Linpeng put the home side two ahead, finishing off a great charge up the right with a one-two with Barrios, who slipped the return pass through the legs of Zhao Junzhe (the veteran midfielder playing in central defence), and an unstoppable point-blank blast past Zhang Lu in the Liaoning goal.
Five minutes after that, Barrios himself made it three, running onto an Elkeson ball through the immobile Liaoning defence and beating Zhang one on one. In a reflection of his apparent isolation from the rest of the camp, he ran to celebrate with Conca, who was warming up behind the goal, rather than with any of his teammates who were actually on the pitch.
With twenty minutes to go the just-booked Zheng Zhi was replaced by Zhao Xuri, and shortly after Muriqui by Conca. The latter made the assist for Barrios’ second in the 81st minute, the Paraguayan international rocketing his shot in from the right edge of the box. Unfortunately he managed to injure himself in the process and had to be withdrawn, leaving Guangzhou with just ten men on the field. It looked like it may have been a recurrence of the injury sustained at the start of the season against Shanghai Shenxin, which led to an absence of a few weeks. Certainly he will be out for Wednesday’s home game against Central Coast Mariners – a real shame when he finally seems to be hitting some form.
With a numerical advantage, Liaoning started doing more than just waiting for the final whistle. Mindful of the increased threat, Zeng started taking his time with kick-outs and was rewarded with a yellow card in injury time – absurd considering the lack of any danger to the points and the fact that the Liaoning keeper had been consistently doing the same throughout the first half. Just before the whistle, Edu managed a consolation goal for the visitors, following up after Chamanga hit the crossbar.
So the Evergrande juggernaut rumbles on apace – note that in this same fixture last season, it took an injury-time goal for Evergrande to beat a Liaoning side without Edu or Chamanga and on the cusp of relegation. Only Shandong and possibly Guizhou now look like posing any kind of challenge to Evergrande’s quest to retain the title. Meanwhile Liaoning, along with Beijing and Qingdao, are beginning to fade after bright starts; with a third of the season already gone, it seems unlikely any of them will be troubling the top three again this year.
Guangzhou Evergrande: 19 Zeng Cheng; 33 Rong Hao, 4 Zhao Peng, 28 Kim Young-Gwon, 5 Zhang Linpeng; 8 Qin Sheng, 10 Zheng Zhi, 16 Huang Bowen; 11 Muriqui, 29 Gao Lin, 9 Elkeson
Subs: 22 Li Shuai, 18 Barrios (for Gao Lin 56′), 37 Zhao Xuri (for Zheng Zhi 70′), 15 Conca (for Elkeson 73′), 6 Feng Xiaoting, 14 Feng Renliang, 32 Sun Xiang
Liaoning Whowin: 1 Zhang Lu; 3 Wu Gaojun, 9 Zhao Junzhe, 5 Yang Shanping, 11 Zheng Tao; 20 Jin Taiyan, 19 P. Brandán, 8 Zhang Ye, 22 Wang Liang; 12 J. Chamanga, 10 Edu
Subs: 29 Liu Yang, 6 Yang Yu (for Wang Liang 68′), 18 Wang Liang (for Jin Taiyan 72′), 4 Sun Shilin (for P. Brandán 80′), 23 Wang Hao, 28 Jiang Peng, 30 Ni Yusong