AFC Champions League Group Stage Round 2
Yokohama F-Marinos 1
Jin Hanato 20′
Guangzhou Evergrande 1
Alessandro Diamanti 38′
The Asian champions left Japan with a well-earned point after a jaw-dropping Alessandro Diamanti free kick just before half time canceled out Jin Hanato’s opener. There was some pleasing football on display, but this tightly-balanced group stage ACL game was quite a niggly affair, and the best chances came from set pieces.
Indeed Yokohama’s goal also came from a free kick, albeit indirectly. Initially the game had been quite even, with a couple of decent opportunities for each side, but twenty minutes in Zhang Linpeng was adjudged to have brought down Hanato just outside the box, near the touchline on the left.
Veteran Shunsuke Nakamura scooped the ball into the centre, and despite numerous yellow shirts bouncing around in its path, only Zheng Zhi’s ankle made any form of contact. The deflection fell kindly for the free kick winner to blast past Zeng Cheng.
Zheng had a decent game back in the heart of midfield, after starting in defence against Henan on Saturday, but got himself booked just eighteen minutes in and was generally more error-prone than usual. This was understandable though, given it was the 33 year old’s third full game in the same number of countries in one week; it was more of a surprise to see him remain on the pitch for the full ninety.
In the battle of the legendary captains Nakamura came out the better, forcing Zeng into saves from other set pieces and creating the best opportunity of the game for Hanato in the 71st minute. After stealing the ball from Diamanti, the ex-Celtic man curled an exquisite pass forward onto the goalscorer’s head, but he couldn’t direct it either side of the keeper.
With Muriqui peripheral and Elkeson misfiring, the Italian international had earlier been called upon to save the day for the visitors. It was slightly concerning how often in this game he ran into muggers down blind alleys, but all was forgiven when he won and scored from a free kick just outside the box. The almost unnatural precision with which he sent his ball swerving just over the wall and just in under the crossbar shows Diamanti to be at least the equal of Conca in the dead ball stakes.
Elkeson forced Tetsuya Enomoto into a very good reaction save from another free just before the hour, and Guangzhou had a flurry or two in their opponents’ box towards the end, but Marinos had at least as many opportunities themselves. As the clock wore down, you got the sense that both teams had more or less settled for the status quo some time before the final whistle.
Guangzhou stay in second in Group G on goal difference behind Jeonbuk Motors, who drew 2-2 away to Melbourne Victory. The next ACL game is Tuesday, 18th of March (kick off 20:00 CST) when the Korean side visit Tianhe for their annual group stage clash there. Evergrande have failed to win this fixture on either previous occasion, losing 3-1 in 2012 and drawing 0-0 in the rubber stamp of 2013. With the winner taking pole position in the group, it’s going to be an intriguing tie.
Guangzhou Evergrande: 19 Zeng Cheng; 32 Sun Xiang, 28 Kim Young-Gwon, 6 Feng Xiaoting, 5 Zhang Linpeng; 2 Liao Lisheng, 10 Zheng Zhi, 16 Huang Bowen, 15 Diamanti, 11 Muriqui; 9 Elkeson
Subs: 29 Gao Lin (for 11 Muriqui 73’), 37 Zhao Xuri (for 16 Huang Bowen 77’)
Yokohama F-Marinos: 1 Tetsuya Enomoto; 13 Yuzo Kobayashi, 15 Fabio, 22 Yuji Nakazawa, 23 Takumi Shimohira; 6 Shōhei Ogura, 7 Shingō Hyōdō, 8 Kosuke Nakamachi, 10 Shunsuke Nakamura, 11 Manabu Saito; 17 Jin Hanato
Subs: 20 Yūhei Satō (for 7 Shingō Hyōdō 45’), 9 Takuro Yajima (for 17 Jin Hanato 82’), 26 Yuta Mikado (for 8 Kosuke Nakamachi 92’)
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