After last week’s confidence-boosting thumping of city rivals Shanghai Shenxin, East Asia travel to neighbours Hangzhou Greentown looking to continue their upward trajectory against a side themselves buoyed by a clinical 3-1 victory over Shanghai Shenhua in round 2.
Xi Zhikang will be forced into making at least one change from last time out, after Lv Wenjun’s retrospective ban as a result of his controversial celebration last weekend – giving the finger to his own bench who were preparing to substitute him. Both Xi and goalkeeper Yan Junling acknowledged this week that the game will be an entirely different affair to last week’s demolition at Shanghai Stadium, noting the impact of Hangzhou’s foreign and domestic talent. The manager alluded to the speed of Hangzhou’s counter-attacking game, citing Gilberto Macena’s goal against Shenhua as an example of this threat.
Last Time Out
An excellent all-round performance last week resulted in a comprehensive 5-1 defeat of an admittedly inept Shenxin side. East Asia will be thrilled by a display much improved from their opening game against Liaoning Whowin, where at times they struggled to find their killer instinct. Key to the victory was the combination of a well-marshalled midfield, incisive running from wide-men, Wu Lei and Lü Wenjun, and a greater understanding between forwards, Tobias Hysen and Daniel McBreen. Going forward, the home side threatened on a number of occasions, although defensively, a recurrent failure to clear their lines brought some nervy moments that East Asia fans will be wishing to avoid against a more potent strike-force. The side’s desire to play fluent, passing football is a joy to watch by and large, however, this must be counterbalanced by some more pragmatic defending if they are to continue the season as successfully as they have started.
Hangzhou, on the other hand, produced a fine showing in their 3-1 defeat of Shenhua at Hongkou Stadium last week. Given that this game was overshadowed by the toxic atmosphere inside the ground; Shenhua fans demonstrating their displeasure at owner Greenland Group’s rebranding of the club; it is difficult to discern precisely how competent the away side were. However, the threats were easy to see; Davy Angan displayed an impressive finishing touch for both goals (scored inside 5 minutes), and Gilberto Macena clearly stood out as the game’s key player. Nonetheless, much of Shenhua’s demise was of their own doing – a nervy performance in a wholly unsettling atmosphere certainly had it’s impact.
Causes for Optimism…
The attacking flair that East Asia showed last week will leave the red side of Shanghai with plenty of hope for coming games. Not only did Hysen get on the scoresheet twice, but McBreen also looked dangerous, acting as a bridge between the Swedish star and his midfield colleagues. The Australian held the ball up well, allowing teammates to run into the space created by his hard work. Elsewhere, full-back Fu Huan put in a hugely impressive performance, making several highly-effective overlapping runs down the right wing. The hard work of Wu Lei – East Asia’s most skilful and effective individual – and the pacy (although suspended) Lü Wenjun, will give the East Asia faithful great confidence going into the game.
… and for Concern
Despite Lü’s quality showing last week, his over-the-top response to scoring, means he now faces a spell on the sidelines for his indiscretion. In addition to this, the fact that East Asia have yet to face a competent attacking side means that questions still linger over their defensive organisation. In both of their opening games, the likes of Addo and Cuadrado have looked largely comfortable in defence, although concerns have been noted over their lack of urgency in clearing their lines. If Greentown’s forward pairing can show the same pace and accuracy in their running and passing as was evident last week, East Asia will certainly find themselves with more of a challenge than has been the case so far.
Watch Out For
While the obvious talents of Wu Lei and Tobias Hysen were instrumental in securing the 5-1 result last week, it was the performance of Fu Huan at right-back that would have pleased many fans. Fu interlinked with Wu Lei down the right to great success – overlapping time and again and making some exciting bursts into the box. However, the two will be mindful that better, and faster, opposition will be much better prepared to deal with this particular threat. Another high-level performance from both will be key to securing another 3 points this weekend.
East Asia will be riding a wave of confidence following their showing in round 2, and they must harness this in order to better a Hangzhou team who will also be in high spirits, and looking to perform in front of their own fans. As this will undoubtedly prove to be their sternest test to date, East Asia are more than capable of producing the performance needed to win against their local rivals. Perhaps over-confident after last week’s drubbing, I see East Asia edging this in a much tighter game. 2-1.