Beijing Guoan went level on points with league leaders Guangzhou Evergrande Saturday night, but they needed every minute of the 90 and some help to do so. Thankfully Liaoning was willing to provide it with a late hand ball that gave Guoan a penalty kick and the match winning goal.
CHINESE SUPER LEAGUE ROUND 11
Beijing Guoan 1
Liaoning Whowin 0
The Beijingers laid siege to the Liaoning goal and it seeemd a foregone conclusion that a goal was coming, there was no way Liaoning could take the pressure, but the only question was how, considering how lackluster the Guoan offense was. It was no surprise when the answer came, a penalty would be the difference maker. It was a real heart stopper, a number of people in the stadium, including some of the players and coaches, couldn’t watch the penalty, expertly taken by Pablo Batalla.
It was Joffre Guerron’s much awaited return after being suspended for multiple matches, but he didn’t provide the offensive spark that Guoan needed. The first half didn’t provide much to talk about either, other than Ha Dae-sung hitting the crossbar and James Chamanga kicking Ha when he was on the ground, a stupid play that led to him seeing a second yellow and further handcuffing the visitors.
Even playing against only 10 men for 45 minutes, Guoan struggled to find a goal. Liaoning adopted a very defensive setup and took every opportunity they could find to waste time, hoping to leave Gongti unscathed. During the final 15 minutes or so of the match, Liaoning even conceded the ball to Beijing, a sort of challenge to the Men in Green’s offense. The Liaoning players stopped challenging for the ball, simply allowing Guoan to have it and hoping their defense was strong enough to stop Guoan, who were playing with everyone up. In some cases, Liaoning keeper Zhang Lu gave up and just kicked the ball out of bounds, hoping to waste time and thinking maybe his teammates would defend on a throw in more than they were when he booted it down field, only to see Guoan charge back on the attack.
Guoan was pressing, but the pressure was getting to the players and there was too much confusion leading to missed passes, easy turnovers, and weak attacks. Just as the match entered the final seconds of added time, a cross came in on the left and Liaoning defender Wang Bo, who was marking Batalla, threw out his arms as the ball was coming down, he just missed handling the ball on its way down, but after it bounced up, he didn’t get his arm in fast enough and the ball hit it. The referee pointed to the spot, Batalla stepped up and scored, and a collective sigh of relief and outpouring of joy filled the Beijing night.
The win is Guoan’s fourth straight 1-0 victory and has them level on points with Evergrande, though the Guangzhou side remains in first with an impressive goal differential. There is sure to be high drama in the capital when the champions travel to Beijing at the end of the month, it better be one to remember as fans will have to go a month and a half without CSL football as the league enters the summer break.