Guangzhou R&F strolled through their second round AFC Champions League qualification playoff against Singapore’s Warriors FC, scoring three goals after the break to begin the Cosmin Contra era in fine style.
ASIAN CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
Guangzhou R&F 3
Jiang Zhipeng 52′, Jang Hyun-Soo 60′, Zhang Shuo 73′
Warriors FC 0
A sparse crowd turned up at the Yuexiushan for a match that the Cantonese side were expected to win easily, but those who attended were rewarded with a dominant performance against weak opposition.
This was, in truth, a match the hosts were always expected to win comfortably. However, some lacklustre finishing ensured that nerves would have been rising among the club’s supporters by half-time.
Delightful strikes in quick succession from defenders Jiang Zhipeng and Jang Hyun-Soo, though, ensured that any doubts that may have been building were put to bed early in the second half.
Deprived of top-scorer Abderrazak Hamdallah and midfield general Park Jong-Woo through injury, R&F were forced to use a largely Chinese eleven on their first official outing of the 2015 season but encountered few problems.
Set up in a fluid 4-3-3 formation with Jiang Ning in the unfamiliar role of withdrawn central striker, the Blues shot out the blocks in the opening minutes to show vibrancy around the penalty area and a desire to press high up the pitch. Chances were created aplenty, but both Lu Lin and Jiang were culpable of missing relatively straightforward opportunities prior to the break.
Following another Lu Lin miss with the goal gaping early in the second half, R&F finally took their opportunity. A corner from the right found left-back Jiang Zhipeng completely unmarked just outside the area and the China international showed great technique to volley home. Minutes later, the lead was doubled from another corner opportunity as central defender Jang Hyun-Soo found the net with a sharp turn and shot. R&F fans could breathe easy.
Substitute Zhang Shuo added a convincing look to the scoreline with 20 minutes, turning home a rebound after Spanish debutant Michel had struck the crossbar from range in what became a cakewalk for the hosts. Singaporean champions Warriors had given a brave fight but visibly tired as the game progressed and R&F were quick to capitalise.
Despite his side’s profligacy, Contra will have been pleased with what he saw from his understrength side. In their first outing of the year there was a real energy to their play, while new signings Wang Song and Michel settled in well. The Romanian, though, would doubtless like to strengthen a little more in midfield prior to the closing of the transfer window.
R&F, though, will have to quickly switch attention to what could be a season-defining trip to Australia next week to face Central Coast Mariners. While the Chinese are just beginning their campaign, their opponents will be fully fit and ready for action with the A League season currently in full swing. It will be a real test of the mettle of Contra’s side, with a place in the Champions League group stage at stake for the winner.
Guangzhou R&F (4-3-3): Liu Dianzuo; Tang Miao, Zhang Yaokun, Jang Hyun-Soo, Jiang Zhipeng; Li Yan, Michel, Lu Lin; Wang Song (Zhang Yuan 73′), Jiang Ning (Min Junlin 82′), Chang Feiya (Zhang Shuo 65′).
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