A late penalty kick for Beijing Guoan provided an equalizer and a critical away goal in last week’s Asian Champions League cup tie against Jeonbuk Hyundai. The result required a bit of luck, but sees the Beijingers take a slight advantage into the second leg, to be played tonight at Worker’s Stadium.
Gregorio Manzano mixed things up tactically, doing something we rarely see from him, playing a diamond midfield instead of his typical setup with two defensive midfielders. This also freed him up to play two forwards, something we almost never see from him. Lacking the two defensive mids and especially Darko Matic didn’t cause that much trouble for Guoan, fortunately the back four was up to snuff with close to the ideal formation in back. Part of that was Pablo Batalla’s adapted usage, with Manzano breaking from the diamond at times to have him sit back in a defensive position. After some tense moments early, that included Jeonbuk’s opening salvo scored off a free kick, Guoan’s defense settled down and was more than up to the task.
While the Beijingers were able to dominate possession throughout the match, unfortunately the offensive issues that have plagued the side throughout the season continue to creep in. Manzano’s rotation policy means that players and positions are extremely fluid, of the last three matches, only Yu Dabao and Ha Daesung have remained a constant (and have remained in the same position). This has led to regular issues in the midfield. Most of all, the club has struggled finding goals, with two important goals recently (the Jeonbuk equalizer and the Shenzhen winner in the cup) coming from the penalty spot.
Guoan isn’t a side known for parking the bus, so tonight we’re likely to be treated to a wide open fight to advance to the quarterfinals. Yu Dabao’s arrival at Gongti offered a lot of hope, but fans have been slightly disappointed in his performances, it will be interesting to see if Manzano sticks with him or, if as expected, uses Song Boxuan and Zhang Chengdong on the wings. The back four and Ha in defensive mid should all stay the same, but is Manzano going to stick with his two foreigners up top or play Dejan alone, with support from Batalla as attacking mid?
It’s do or die tonight for the Beijingers, the biggest concern for Guoan fans is if the offense will be up for the challenge.
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