Guizhou Renhe 1-0 Guangzhou Evergrande
Chinese Super Cup
Z. Muslimović 34′
The 2014 Chinese football season got off to a forgettable start on a cold and ‘foggy’ afternoon in Guiyang, as a solitary Muslimović goal saw the CFA Cup holders defeat the CSL champions to win the Super Cup, the Chinese equivalent of the Community Shield.
The event was more notable for the controversies that surrounded it than anything that actually happened on the pitch however. One would have expected the Cantonese side to be eager to avenge December’s CFA Cup final loss, but the club refused to send any of their first team players to the fixture, with Lippi also abstaining. Instead reserve team coach Fabrizio Del Rosso was tasked with guiding through the contest a squad composed of his young charges plus a smattering of out of favour senior players.
As ever in the murky world of Chinese football, the background to this frankly disrespectful decision was unclear. The squad had returned (minus Lippi and new signing Diamanti) from their training camp in Spain two days beforehand, and the rationale was that this left insufficient time for recovery before the game. But why hadn’t they just come back earlier?
According to some sources, the game was initially supposed to have been played on Wednesday the 19th, but had been pushed forward at relatively short notice to accommodate broadcaster wishes, with Evergrande refusing to change their planned schedule to fit. However others claimed that they had sought to have the game moved to a later date and decided to effectively snub the competition when the CFA turned them down.
In the end the game was substantially closer than the farce most had anticipated upon seeing the respective team sheets. While this was partly down to some of the Guangzhou reserve players taking their opportunity to impress, it was likely related more to their opponents being rusty and (justifiably) complacent.
The callow visitors did create some chances early on, with Luo Jiacheng shooting over and Yang Chaosheng firing a Tan Jiajun centre off the crossbar before ten minutes had passed. Yet they would have to wait until the 78th minute to get their only other shot in, as Guizhou’s veterans started to assert their natural dominance.
It was the younger players on the home side who seemed most eager to break the deadlock, with Chen Jie and Fan Yunlong regularly attacking their opponents goal with vigour if not a great deal of finesse. This led to a scare for Evergrande twenty minutes in when Chen clumsily fouled goalkeeper Fang Jingqi in chasing a ball over the defense, leaving him writhing in agony on the ground.
With only four players on the bench and not one of them a goalie, Fang’s loss would have been a hammer blow, but after some treatment he was able to go on to contribute the away team’s most impressive performance, although Li Jianbin also made several vital blocks, particularly in the first half.
Unfortunately as the game wore on Li, just back from a successful year’s loan spell at Shanghai Shenhua, became increasingly aggressive and could well have conceded two penalties, seeming to trip Fan in the box early in the second half and blatantly wrestling Chen Zijie to the ground at a corner ten minutes from the end.
He also could easily have been sent off for taking Muslimović out of the game with an atrocious tackle in the 56th minute, but surprisingly the referee didn’t even deem it worthy of a yellow. Criticism from Guangzhou fans after the game led Li to unfavourably compare them on Weibo to their counterparts in Shanghai; despite his undoubted ability, it’s hard to see a future for him at Evergrande given this fractious relationship with the supporters.
Before being injured, Guizhou’s Bosnian striker had scored the only goal of the game, powerfully heading a Fan free-kick home in the 34th minute. The decision to give the foul had been soft, Yang Hao collapsing dramatically on the edge of the box under the merest glance from Yang Xin, but there could be no disputing that Renhe deserved the victory, even if they really should have put away more of their twenty or so shots.
While most of Guangzhou’s youths played about as well as could be expected, I was personally quite disappointed with Hu Weiwei. He had impressed me in his fleeting appearances last season but had great trouble controlling even simple balls here (although the pitch did look to be incredibly slippery). His younger brother Yangyang fared better in possession, though he could do with lifting his head before attempting passes.
But the main talking point was obviously Evergrande’s shockingly dismissive attitude towards the Super Cup trophy. What should have been the grand curtain-raiser to the Chinese football season was treated by the Asian champions as less worthy of their time and effort than meaningless friendlies against Eastern European clubs on Spanish training grounds. It’s an affront not just to the CFA but also to Guizhou Renhe and the rest of their domestic rivals.
Yet questions must also be asked as to why a match normally scheduled for the weekend before the season opens was this year held three weeks beforehand. Presumably the vital Asian Cup qualifier that China play in Iraq on March 5th ruled out the standard timing, but is Guizhou’s ACL trip to Japan on February 26th really a good enough reason not to have the game on the previous weekend?
Regardless, a gesture like this from Evergrande indicates a severe fracturing of their previously cosy relationship with the CFA, and given the historically less than even-handed nature of the organisation, the club can probably expect this blatant show of contempt to come back to bite them over the course of the season.
Guizhou Renhe: 12 Zhang Lie; 31 Rao Weihui, 4 J. Salley, 17 Sun Jihai, 3 Zhang Chenglin; 6 Fan Yunlong, 7 K. Mączyński, 15 Chen Jie, 29 Yang Hao, 27 Qu Bo; 9 Z. Muslimović
Subs: 23 Chen Changyuan (for 31 Rao Weihui 46′), 39 Chen Zijie (for 9 Z. Muslimović 59′), 8 Li Chunyu (for 7 K. Mączyński 77′)
Guangzhou Evergrande: 1 Fang Jingqi; 34 Hu Weiwei, 26 Li Jianbin, 24 Liu Haidong, 7 Feng Junyan; 39 Tan Jiajun, 31 Luo Jiacheng, 20 Yang Xin, 35 Qin Sheng, 36 Hu Yangyang; 30 Yang Chaosheng
Subs: 25 Gan Tiancheng (for 39 Tan Jiajun 85′), 27 Wang Junhu (for 36 Hu Yangyang 85′)
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