Beijing still in prime Asian Champions League spot
The crucial third position in the Chinese Super League is still open, while four teams are fighting to avoid being relegated with Wuhan. A very exciting last two rounds are on the agenda.
Beijing have all season been positioned in one of the ACL league positions, but lately Guizhou have closed the gap and now only one point is between the two sides with two games left. Beijing got one point Friday evening against Hangzhou in a match controlled by the home side.
The Beijing starting 11, in their normal 4-2-3-1 formation were without number 8 Guerron and 11 Kanoute, but after a disappointing first half, where Beijing did not manage to create a lot of chances, both teams adopted offensive profiles for the last 45 minutes. Number 10 at Beijing, the playmaker and key player Zhang Xizhe, was maybe tired after the midweek national game, as he did not perform to his normal standard and 15 Peter Utaka had an off day with bad first touches and poor timing in his 1v1 offensive actions.
Number 19 the quick winger Wang Xiaolong had a great game and was the only direct threat to a solid Hangzhou organization. As a coach; when your concept and style don’t work out, you must rely on individual efforts and number 19 Wang was the most efficient player for Beijinge and clearly ‘Man of the match’.
Number 8. Guerron entered the pitch scored a great goal, and watching the head coach Stanojevic you could see the strike’s importance – he looked even happier than the players.
But after the goal, Beijing stopped playing, stopped moving and their full backs did not run forward anymore, staying home to secure the victory. And this was a mistake. Beijing is one of the best possession teams in the league, but they are not a strong defensive team without the ball. Beijing is a bit like FC Barcelona as they like the Spanish giants actually defend best when they have the ball.
The key is to keep possession so opponents can’t score. To stand off and defend is not Beijing’s usual tactic, but they tried this on Friday and they were punished when Hangzhou equalized.
A 3v1 situation developed but there were was still no Beijing pressure on the ball. Hangzhou number 20 Davy N’Guessan received the ball with his back towards the goal, turned, looked up, found balance and curled the ball to the corner all by himself with three Beijing-defenders closeby. Way too passive defending by Beijing, who normally are one of the better sides in the league regarding the pressure phase.
So a two-point loss for Beijing. Guizhou won their game and now only one point separates the two sides fighting for the last ACL spot. Two interesting rounds left, where both sides have to face number 2 in the league – Shandong. The key will be which team can get a point or three against the men in orange.
Qingdao, Changchun, Hangzhou, or Jiangsu – which team will go down?
Four teams are still involved in the relegation battle with only two rounds to go. Mathematically other teams can still go down, but I’m sure that one of these four clubs will be playing in the China League One next year/
In the last few weeks Qingdao have looked the weakest team with an almost non-existent offense. I analyzed them on Sunday against Guangzhou and if we forget the surprising win against Tianjin TEDA they have not scored more than one goal per match since August 7th, when they lost 2-5 to Beijing. Qingdao has scored fewest goals in the league (except Wuhan), so this will be the main problem for them seeing as they need wins in the last two rounds. And I can’t see how their concept or individual quality will bring them these points.
Jiangsu and Changchun are strong at set pieces and counter attacks, which gives them an edge in tight matches such as those coming up, so I see the relegation battle as being between Hangzhou and Qingdao. If we look at the schedule – Hangzhou has a difficult next game against Guizhou, who are playing for the ACL, and then an away game in Dalian, where most teams encounter problems, so not an easy schedule.
Qingdao is playing home against Jiangsu and then away against Beijing. I see them taking a maximum of three 3 points in these two matches meaning Hangzhou just have to get one point out of their last two games to stay up. So everything is still pointing at Qingdao as the team going down with Wuhan.
For the development of the football in China, I personally hope that Hangzhou staying up as they have a very promising U19-team and several interesting young players in their CSL-squad already, but the games have to be played and two interesting rounds are coming up.