Changchun Yatai emptied a cold bucket of WTF over Tianhe Stadium last night, as the unfancied dongbeiren scored three to hand Evergrande their first CSL home defeat in almost two years, and first in all competitions for a year. The hosts had the majority of the chances and possession and little of the luck, but their arrhythmic and impotent display meant they could have few complaints about the result.
CHINESE SUPER LEAGUE ROUND 3
Guangzhou Evergrande 1
Changchun Yatai 3
Beciraj 36’, Iglesias 40’, Eninho 50’
The Jilin side had failed to find the net in the CSL yet this season, a fact I had mistakenly considered more noteworthy than that they’d only conceded one in two games. Sure enough, they were too strong in defence for this listless Guangzhou team to effectively penetrate, and their pair of recent arrivals from Europe opened their Chinese accounts at the third time of asking.
Just as in the ACL opener against Melbourne, these initial goals were late in the first half and resulted from set-pieces, highlighting an apparent weakness in Guangzhou’s match preparations. First a 36th minute free kick from out near the half way line was propelled into the box by Eninho. Montenegrin international Fatos Beciraj rose unchallenged and rather fortuitously flicked it past Zeng Cheng with the top of his head.
Eninho and Beciraj again united for the Walter Iglesias second within five minutes, when another freekick from the ex-Jeonbuk Brazilian was nodded on by the previous scorer, only this time for the offside Argentinian to pounce on it and strike home. The linesman assisted in the midwifing by keeping his flag down.
At half-time fans were anxious but probably largely expecting the second half cavalry to ride to the rescue as they had against Melbourne and so often before. After suffering a back injury midway through the half, Huang Bowen had been withdrawn for Dong Xuesheng before the break, with Gao moving out to the side and Diamanti back into midfield.
It made little noticeable difference. Five minutes after the restart, the always threatening Eninho chased down Kim Young Gwon for a high ball forward from Beciraj and left the Korean flat on his backside as he charged past him and beat Zeng one on one. Kim whinged so much about the non-existent foul he got booked. It was a goal the ex-Jeonbuk man’s performance deserved, but it was farcical from an Evergrande viewpoint.
The deficit was reduced just before the hour when Eninho was judged to have handled Alessandro Diamanti’s free kick and Elkeson scored from the spot. The home side though still seemed completely out of sorts, seeing plenty of the ball but unable to string together many decent attacking moves with it.
Much credit must go to Changchun’s resilient defense, who despite consisting of much the same personnel as were hit for six in this fixture last time out proved superior in solidity and organisation here. Complacency and the ongoing issue of life after Conca and with the more individualistic new star Diamanti were also factors however. In the absence of the injured Muriqui, the Italian started on the right side of the front three, where he has been most effective for Evergrande so far.
Yet despite some good efforts on goal, he generally seemed ill at ease and appeared at times frustrated in communicating with his teammates. There was also a lot of diving about and complaining to the officials, and early on a nasty snap at Eninho’s heel that should probably have resulted in a booking. Liu Weidong did see yellow a few minutes later for returning the favour, the first of five Changchun players to be booked in an inconsistent refereeing performance.
Evergrande had their chances, with Zhang Linpeng’s deflected shot that looped just wide before the break one of the closer ones, but their luck just wasn’t in. In his 100th appearance Zhang had no better a time than anyone else on his side; in attempting trickery to get past his man into the box late on, he stumbled and saw the ball trickle away from him over the touchline, a faintly comical moment that pretty much encapsulated the home team’s night.
Changchun will rightly be full of hope for the season ahead after this display and result, and it will also encourage those other sides harbouring title ambitions. It serves as a wake-up call to the reigning champions that individual moments cannot always be relied upon to deliver results; last year’s triumphs were as much the product of tight and cohesive teamwork. They next travel to Nanjing to face Jiangsu Sainty in the CSL on Friday 28th March.
Guangzhou Evergrande: 19 Zeng Cheng; 32 Sun Xiang, 28 Kim Young-Gwon, 6 Feng Xiaoting, 5 Zhang Linpeng; 10 Zheng Zhi, 16 Huang Bowen, 8 Rene Junior; 9 Elkeson, 23 Diamanti, 29 Gao Lin
Subs: 18 Dong Xuesheng (for 16 Huang Bowen 43’), 3 Mei Fang (for 6 Feng Xiaoting 64’), 2 Liao Lisheng (for 8 Rene Junior 66’)
Changchun Yatai: 29 Song Zhenyu; 23 Zhang Xiaofei, 5 Anzur Ismailov, 2 Wang Wanpeng, 12 Lv Jianjun; 21 Liu Weidong, 6 Pei Shuai, 17 Walter Iglesias, 18 Li Xiaoting; 9 Fatos Beciraj, 8 Eninho
Subs: 16 Jiang Zhe (for 21 Liu Weidong 64’), 11 Rafael Coelho (for 8 Eninho 79’), 15 Sun Jie (for 9 Fatos Beciraj 90’)