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Canton’s Finest No Match for Munich Machine

Bayern Munich 3-0 Guangzhou Evergrande

FIFA Club World Cup Semi-final

Ribéry 40′, Mandžukić 44′, Götze 47′

Guangzhou Evergrande faced their biggest challenge ever last night when faced with arguably the best club team in the world at the moment. UEFA Champion’s League winners Bayern Munich were streets ahead of their opponents in every sense, but although they could have conceded more, the Cantonese side put in a strong rearguard shift to keep the scoreline respectable.

Lippi knew better than to try to take on Guardiola’s men at their own game, and defensive intentions were made clear when it was announced that bulky midfielder Zhao Xuri had replaced forward Gai Lin in the starting line-up from the quarter-final win over Al Ahly. For their part Bayern fielded an almost full-strength team, absent only the injured Arjen Robben, for their first of two matches in the tournament.

From the kick-off Bayern absolutely dominated the game. Lippi had prepared his side to feed off only the scraps of possession that their illustrious opponents gave them, a mere 28% as it turned out. The extent of their hold on the game was reflected in the fact that in the first half, Lahm (playing in front of the defence) made more passes than all of Evergrande’s midfield players combined.

Yet despite Thiago and Kroos each hitting the woodwork, Lippi’s gameplan was working about as well as possible, with his team by and large keeping Bayern’s play at a fairly safe distance from their goal. Muriqui’s failure to control a 14th minute pass when well-positioned in the box was the closest they had come to a shot, but after the half hour mark they started trying to break forward a bit more.

Inevitably, this was when Bayern cracked them open, though Ribery’s goal when it came five minutes before the break was a scrappy and slightly lucky one. It fell to him near the corner of the six-yard box after blocks from Zhao and Kim, and goalkeeper Zeng Cheng let his scuffed shot squirm under him and into the net. Fortune had played no small role in keeping the scoreline level to that point however, so there could be few complaints.

The second quickly followed. Zeng had saved well but passed the ball out rather than clearing it, and as Evergrande tried to maintain possession dangerously close to their box, Bayern pounced. Thiago dispossessed a dawdling Huang Bowen and crossed the ball over the defence for Mandžukić to easily head home. Referring to early blunders against Al Ahli, Lippi had said before the game that “If we make those mistakes (against Bayern) we will pay a very high price”, and after 40 minutes of good work he had been proven right twice.

The World Cup winner replaced Huang at half-time with Rong Hao, and within a minute of the restart Muriqui raised Cantonese hopes as he tore into space on the left with Lahm in pursuit. The experienced German did enough to put off the shot and the Brazilian hit the side netting, and from there Bayern went down and collected their third. Götze received the ball outside the box on the right and, with Guangzhou pressure temporarily absent, fired a beautiful curling shot into the far corner.

Goetze goal

There were fears that things were about to turn really ugly, but thankfully the München meistern eased off somewhat after that. They still did all the attacking and had some great chances, but between a series of excellent redemptive saves from Zeng and the further assistance of the woodwork, the Asian Champions managed to avoid conceding any more.

Evergrande had two shots to Bayern’s 27, the other coming with a quarter hour left when substitutes Gao and Rong combined only for the latter to shoot wide. Moments of offensive promise were very few and far between, making Sun Xiang’s woeful effort at a cross from the byline towards the end more painful than usual.

On the positive side, Guangzhou defended doggedly and never let heads drop against a level of opponent they had never had to deal with before. It’s worth noting that with their four foreigners they won well against an all-Egyptian (bar one substitute) Al-Ahly, but with Bayern playing nine non-Germans in total, even the gulf between the respective national squads was almost a moot issue. It’s difficult to see how an international club cup can be competitive when federation rules on freedom of player movement are so diverse.

Bayern Munich go on to face the victor of tonight’s Raja Casablanca vs Athletico Miniero tie at 19:30 Saturday local time (3:30 Sunday in China), while Guangzhou face the losers in the 3rd/4th place play-off three hours earlier, with both games to be played at Stade de Marrakech, Marrakesh. Evergrande will be hoping to bounce back from this mullering to claim third place for Asia for the first time since Pohang Steelers of South Korea in 2009; a match against the Moroccan champions would be preferred.

Guangzhou Evergrande: 19 Zeng Cheng; 32 Sun Xiang, 6 Feng Xiaoting, 28 Kim Young Gwon, 5 Zhang Linpeng; 10 Zheng Zhi, 37 Zhao Xuri, 16 Huang Bowen; 15 Conca, 11 Muriqui, 9 Elkeson
Subs: 33 Rong Hao (for 16 Huang Bowen 46′), 29 Gao Lin (for 11 Muriqui 72′), 7 Feng Junyan (for 37 Zhao Xuri 76′)

Bayern Munich: 1 Neuer; 13 Rafinha, 5 D. Van Buyten, 17 Boetang, 27 Alaba; 21 Lahm, 7 Ribéry, 6 Thiago Alcântara, 39 Kroos, 19 Götze; 9 Mandžukić
Subs: 8 Javi Martínez (for 39 Kroos 58′), 11 Shaqiri (for 7 Ribéry 72’), 14 Pizarro (for 9 Mandžukić 75′)

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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