Beijing Guoan ended a run of three straight wins and forfeited first place in the Super League on Friday evening, after a 70th minute goal from Tobias Hysen secured a well earned 1-0 win for Shanghai East Asia. The game was a close affair throughout, and the visitors will certainly be frustrated not to at least have come away with a point, having seen a number of chances go to waste.
Shanghai East Asia 1
T. Hysen 70′
Beijing Guoan 0
Shanghai began the game with the same lineup that won at Hangzhou Greentown in round 3, while Beijing made one change from their 2-0 victory over Shanghai Shenhua; Dae-Sung Ha replacing Piao Cheng in midfield. The Korean worked well alongside Pablo Batalla, the pair key to much of the visiting side’s attacking play. However, East Asia showed their resilience (and perhaps their Champions League-chasing credentials), as Swedish forward Hysen secured an important 3 points; pouncing on the rebound of a Wu Lei shot, to net his fourth goal of the season.
The first half saw both sides go close on several occasions, although it will be Gregorio Manzano’s side who will be cursing their luck, having failed to capitalise on some promising opportunities in front of goal early on. The first of these came after 8 minutes, after Zhang Xizhe brushed off the challenge of Fu Huan on the left wing before squaring to Peter Utaka, arriving on the edge of the 6 yard box. The Nigerian made a mess of his shot, but the ball worked its way fortunately to Ha, loitering just inside the penalty area, however, the midfielder could only fire straight at East Asia goalkeeper Yan Junling, who gathered easily. Ha was involved again minutes later, forcing an instinctive diving save from Yan following an unsuccessful headed clearance by Ransford Addo. The Beijing man skilfully took the ball down with his chest before firing towards the goalkeeper’s right hand side, only to be beaten away by the young stopper.
The visitor’s spell of dominance continued, and in the 13th minute, only a last-ditch tackle by captain Wang Shenchao on Batalla prevented the home side from slipping behind. Utaka squandered another opportunity soon after, striking powerfully with his left foot to no avail, after a clever chipped through-ball from Ha. East Asia appeared to tighten up as a result of this series of narrow escapes; Cai Huikang and Wang Jiajie closing down the space in which Ha and Batalla attempted to operate. This resulted in a stream of wayward passes and interceptions from both teams throughout much of the first half, as well as some whole-hearted challenges – bringing 3 yellow cards inside the first 45 minutes.
Daniel McBreen came close shortly before the half time whistle, controlling the ball well after Beijing defender Yu Yang’s missed header. The frontman found himself in space 30 yards from goal, but his second touch took the ball awkwardly away to his left and allowed Xu Yunlong time to cover. Subsequently, his shot was comfortably parried over by Beijing ‘keeper, Yang Zhi. The ensuing corner kick was met by McBreen, who – perhaps inspired by the suspended Lv Wenjun’s effort in the previous game on the same turf – attempted an ambitious overhead kick, which flew high and wide past the goal.
The second half continued in the same tightly-contested fashion, East Asia defenders Addo and Cuadrado marshalling the defence effectively – Addo in particular making several important challenges with opposition players closing in on goal. Utaka had more opportunities, but still was unable to net his first CSL goal of the campaign. The home team brought on Lin Chuangyi for Wang Jiajie in search of more dynamism in midfield, although it was trusted homegrown star Wu Lei who was instrumental in putting East Asia ahead in the 70th minute.
The move started with Lin out wide on the left, who played the ball inside to McBreen. Laying the ball off to Wu to his right, the man who had scored in every game so far this year controlled neatly, and whipped a precise shot towards Yang Zhi’s goal. The Beijing ‘keeper was only able to tip the ball onto the post, and Hysen was first to react to the loose ball, slotting home into the open net. Replays show that the striker had in fact been standing in an offside position, although with little appeal from the Beijing back line, the goal was allowed to stand.
Despite falling behind, Beijing were still unable to exert the kind of authority that we have witnessed in previous games this season, and Utaka again could have done better, after a clever turn and hit with his left foot. Substitute Piao Cheng, on for Ha in midfield, also found himself in sight of goal late in the half, but as had been the case throughout for Beijing, the shot was aimed squarely towards Yan Junling. The replacement of Utaka by Joffre Guerron brought a renewed effort going forward, yet the visiting side still could not find a way past Yan. As a matter of fact, Beijing should have levelled the game in stoppage time, when Zhang Chengdong’s cross was put painfully wide by the head of Shao Jiayi. The substitute clutched his head in his hands as Beijing’s last, and best, opportunity went begging.
Three wins and one draw from their opening four games leaves East Asia sitting atop the CSL, regardless of the weekend’s other results. Having dispatched two rather underwhelming sides in Shenxin and Greentown, Shanghai really made a statement about their intentions on the league this year by doing the same against an in-form Guoan. Although there is still a long way to go in the 2014 season, this result will mean that East Asia should be taken seriously as a force in dismantling the current Chinese ‘big three’. Beijing will be disappointed by their inability to convert chances into goals, and will undoubtedly be looking to put this straight before Tuesday’s ACL clash at Central Coast Mariners.
Shanghai East Asia: 1 Yan Junling; 25 Ransford Addo, 21 Ibán Javier Cuadrado, 4 Wang Shenchao, 23 Fu Huan, 7 Wu Lei, 20 Wang Jiayu, 5 Wang Jiajie (53′ – 15 Lin Chuangyi – 86′ – 3 Wu Yuyin), 6 Cai Huikang, 9 Tobias Hysen, 36 Daniel McBreen.
Beijing Guoan: 22 Yang Zhi; 4 Zhou Ting, 13 Xu Yunlong, 3 Yu Yang, 31 Zhao Hejing, 17 Pablo Batalla, 16 Dae-Sung Ha (59′ – 39 Piao Cheng), 5 Darko Matic, 10 Zhang Xizhe (74′ – 29 Shao Jiayi), 28 Zhang Chengdong, 15 Peter Utaka (74′ – 8 Joffre Guerron).