Guangzhou Evergrande 0-0 Jeonbuk Motors
AFC Champions League group stage match day six
Just as with their last home fixture, the weather at Tianhe stadium tonight oscillated between heavy rain and really, really heavy rain. Unlike that league match against Changchun Yatai, there was to be no rainbow of goals tonight, but rather just a scoreless, colourless, dour, drab draw against a Jeonbuk Motors team that had even less interest in attacking than already-qualified Guangzhou.
Given their superior head-to-head record against third-placed Urawa Red Diamonds, Jeonbuk knew coming into this game that a draw would not only guarantee them a place in the knock-out stages, but also set them up to play Japanese side Kashiwa Reysol in the next round, whereas a win would see them face a more arduous away-leg journey to Australia to play Central Coast Mariners. That pleasure will now be Evergrande’s, after the Koreans’ defensive gameplan successfully delivered the result they wanted, though the game was not without its controversial moments.
Guangzhou started out with three at the back, Lippi trying out Qin Sheng between Kim and Feng again, and with Sun Ziang and Rong Hao on the wings. The hosts dominated possession pretty much from the start, often playing with a very high line, but although the foreign attacking trio circulated well, the Jeonbuk defense was firm and the pickings were slim. Crosses from the wing-backs were often intercepted and matters were not helped by clumsiness in receiving and passing from Barrios and Muriqui, though they both improved as the match wore on.
Jeong Hyuk stung Zeng Cheng’s palms with a shot from distance eleven minutes in, the only shot on target from the away side all night, though they did look dangerous on the counter on a couple more occasions. Barrios almost had the ball in the net in the fifteenth minute after taking a precise pass from Zheng Zhi around goalkeeper Choi Eun-Seong, but he was flagged offside.
The referee kept himself quite busy in the first half an hour, booking two players from each team for otherwise inconsequential tackles. However he failed to blow his whistle at the most pivotal moment of the match, ten minutes before the break, when Conca was quite clearly taken down by Jeong while turning in the box.
There was still time before the whistle for Qin Sheng to pick up a booking for one of his trademark pointless fouls in the middle of the pitch, ruling himself out for the next leg. He was replaced at half-time by Huang Bowen as Guangzhou reverted to four at the back, with Huang occasionally covering in the right side of defense when Rong pressed forward.
This wasn’t to be one of those surprise second half performances Guangzhou have specialised in this season – hardly a surprise given they had nothing to play for and the opposition were making little attempt to push forward. In the 62nd minute Muriqui went over in the box when tackled by Jeon Kwang-Hwan, but was booked for diving for his troubles. Replays indicated that the Brazilian had been looking for the penalty, but there seemed to be contact so the yellow card was very harsh.
This injustice seemed to boost the Cantonese giants a tad for the next quarter of an hour or so, with Barrios and Zheng Zhi having decent attempts and the best chance of the evening falling to Muriqui. The striker almost extended his consecutive ACL scoring run to six games after Conca put him through on goal via a Barrios dummy, but Choi deflected his powerful shot onto the crossbar and out behind.
Muriqui nearly forced Jung In-Hwan into an own goal in a scramble in the box right at the end, but the ball trickled out and with it Urawa’s hopes of a result that would see them through to the next round. Evergrande will play the first leg of the ACL round of sixteen in Australia on the 15th of May, and next play at home in the CSL this Sunday against Tianjin Teda; with that being their fourth match since last Wednesday, and Tianjin coming fresh from their first win of the season, Guangzhou will likely be even more reliant than usual on Elkeson to produce the goods.
Guangzhou Evergrande: 19 Zeng Cheng, 32 Sun Xiang, 6 Feng Xiaoting, 28 Kim Young-Gwon, 33 Rong Hao, 8 Qin Sheng (16 Huang Bowen 46′), 10 Zheng Zhi, 37 Zhao Xuri (7 Feng Junyang 74′), 15 Conca, 11 Muriqui, 18 L. Barrios
Jeonbuk Motors: 23 Choi Eun-Seong, 2 Jeon Kwang-Hwan, 4 Kim Sang-Sik, 17 Lim You-Hwan, 19 Park Won-Jae, 15 Jeong Hyuk, 14 Kim Jung-Woo, 27 Kwon Kyung-Won (5 Jung In-Hwan 86′), 11 Lee Seung-Ki (16 Kim Shin-Young 90′), 8 Elinho (22 Lee Gyu-Ro 82′), 20 Lee Dong-Gook
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