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Guangzhou Evergrande prepare for ACL opener with win over Qingdao Hainiu

Guangzhou Evergrande 3-0 Qingdao Hainiu

Friendly match

Elkeson 14′ (pen.), Zhao Xuri 72′, Gao Lin 76′

In their final run-out prior to next Wednesday’s Asian Champion’s League opener at home to Melbourne Victory, Guangzhou Evergrande were comfortable winners in a friendly against second tier Qingdao Hainiu.

The reigning domestic and continental champions fielded a full-strength line-up, in stark contrast to the controversial second-string team that lost one-nil to Guizhou Renhe in the previous weekend’s Super Cup. The only minor surprise was the selection of Zhang Linpeng at centre-back in place of Feng Xiaoting, with Rong Hao taking Zhang’s usual right-back berth.

As is traditional for pre-season friendlies at Tianhe, admission was free to anyone who came wearing an Evergrande shirt, with hawkers outside the ground selling knock-offs at about 30RMB to anyone who had neglected to bring their own. A sizable and vocal contingent of football-starved locals showed up, with the western section of the stadium filled to well over half of its capacity. For some reason the sea of red found themselves shouting on a home team kitted out in their yellow away strip, with Qingdao matching the crowd’s colours.

Recent recruit Alessandro Diamanti was the main draw, and the Italian international was prominent throughout. He started the game in the advanced midfield slot that Conca had made his own in recent years and drew the foul that led to Evergrande’s first goal 14 minutes in, with Elkeson firing home the resulting penalty.

In the second half he was moved to the right side of the attack after Muriqui had been replaced by defensive midfielder Rene Junior, but despite a number of shots and well-taken free-kicks he was unable to get on the scoresheet. Instead Elkeson and Gao Lin combined in the 72nd minute to set up substitute Zhao Xuri for a simple finish at the far post. Gao then added the third with an excellent strike four minutes later.

The fact that it took the home side so long to increase their lead could be partly attributed to the rather casual approach they took to the game; hardly a surprise in a meaningless fixture like this. However credit must go to Hainiu (which translates to the Manatees), who defended well and pressed hard when they could, forcing home goalkeeper Zeng Cheng into some quality saves.

It was only after a number of substitutions had upset the rhythm of the side that they conceded the extra two goals, and on the basis of this showing it would be no surprise to see the club achieve a second consecutive promotion this year to gain Super League status for 2015.

Guangzhou Evergrande: 19 Zeng Cheng; 32 Sun Xiang, 28 Kim Young-Gwon, 5 Zhang Linpeng, 33 Rong Hao; 10 Zheng Zhi, 16 Huang Bowen, 15 Diamanti; 29 Gao Lin, 11 Muriqui, 9 Elkeson
Subs: 8 Rene Junior (for 11 Muriqui 46′), 3 Mei Fang (for 33 Rong Hao 46′), 37 Zhao Xuri (for 16 Huang Bowen 68′), 4 Zhao Peng (for 28 Kim Young-Gwon 83′), 34 Hu Weiwei (for 32 Sun Xiang 86′)

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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