Ding Dong the Witch
is Dead on Life Support Maybe A-OK
Guangzhou Evergrande or Taobao or whatever they are called this week were knocked out of the Asian Champions League in midweek, to the cheers (and in some cases tears) of fans across China. The club that states they haven’t won enough is now left with only the league to focus their hopes of a trophy on. However, there are plenty of reasons for high hopes as they have a six point lead in the standings with only eight matches left in the season. The champions finish up with the more difficult schedule on paper, facing off against East Asia and local rivals R&F before their decisive final three matches. Guoan has things easier, but they also have a local derby against Tianjin and a trip to Huanglong, where they’ve not won since 2010. No Guoan fan will be brimming with optimism, but we still have a title race to watch, will Guangzhou’s ACL elimination dampen their confidence or will it sharpen their focus on the league?
Beijing travelled well to Shandong, with a massive crowd of over 3,000 in the away end, but while the fans were hoping to come away with all three points, the side was at least able to cut down Evergrande’s lead by one. There were plenty of issues on the pitch (see below) in what was a rough match, but overall it lived up to its billing, with two of the country’s top sides going head-to-head. In all honesty, a draw was a fair result considering how the Beijingers played, but there are plenty of reasons why Guoan will be kicking themselves, having a slight advantage in chances. Darko Matic’s goal, his first from the run of play in 201 matches for the club, was a thing of absolute beauty, unfortunately he had an even better chance in the final minutes, but Wang Dalei was able to save it. The Erton/Dejan strike force struck again and are right up there as one of the league’s best, considering the opponents Guoan has left, there will be plenty of chances for them to add to their goal tally. The 4km march the away supporters went on post-match was actually better treatment than what Guoan’s reserve team went through, having to experience a hail of bottles and other flying objects during the match the next day, then having their bus stoned by local hooligans.
Not Defending the Defense
Both sides struggled defensively on Saturday with lots of bad play and bloopers (horrible back passes, players running into each other, etc), but Guoan was particularly bad. Zhou Ting and Lang Zheng both had yellow cards by the 30th minute of the match, effecting the dynamic of the side’s defensive play. Xu Yunlong was outright made to look a fool on Shandong’s second goal, while both goals were softies that Yang Zhi really should have had. Every time Vagner Love touched the ball, Guoan fans feared what would come next. With a few weaker opponents in the not so distant future, it seems likely the rotation will continue and Lei Tenglong and possibly some other younger players will feature a little more often as Guoan preserves their aging legs. If Guoan fails to keep pace, it seems likely it will be the fault of the defense more than anyone else.
If You Love Harbin…
After eight straight home matches, Harbin is back on the road, their first trip a difficult one, coming to the capital. During those eight matches, the side secured 11 points, still leaving them at the bottom of the table, but much closer to safety and with a game in hand. The side has produced some surprising results so far this year and earlier in the season gave Guoan a real run for their money in Harbin. Guoan are a very different team from the one that struggled in the Ice City and are always much stronger at home, while Harbin desperately needs points, they’re unlikely to get them in this fixture.