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Xihu Insider: Greentown suffer away loss in Tianjin

With Greentown being lauded for their promotion of young Chinese talent and Tianjin sparking into life in round three with a pulsating 4-4 draw away at Changchun, the result of this clash between two of last season’s relegation candidates was difficult to call. Heading into this game, Tianjin were still searching for their first win of the season, while Greentown were fresh from last week’s morale boosting victory over Shandong. With all to play for, both sides took to the field confident of securing a crucial three points.

A monotonous first half ends goalless before aerial weakness proves Greentown’s downfall

In a largely mundane first half it was Tianjin who produced the superior of two lacklustre team performances. Between periods of sustained, yet unthreatening possession and consistent high quality set piece deliveries from Brazilian Wagner, Tianjin’s pressure left Greentown struggling to escape their defensive third.

Other than forcing a low save from Hangzhou goalkeeper Zhang Lei and a curling Wagner free kick, Tianjin struggled to fashion any real chances from their dominant share of possession.

Both sides struggled to create chances in a slow first half

Both sides struggled to create chances in a slow first half

It was one of Greentown’s stars of the season so far, Feng Gang, who came closest for the away side, with a right footed free kick going wide of the upright. After being Hangzhou’s most potent attacking force against Shandong, Davy Claude Angan was starved of supply up front. Alongside Tim Cahill, their increasing isolation was symbolic of Greentown’s inadequacy in possession, in the face of a patient Tianjin side.

Thus, an uninspiring first half saw both sides head into half time goalless.

With most viewers surely having been close to a Sunday afternoon nap after watching the first half, luckily the second luckily saw the game spark into something resembling life.

Soon after the resumption of play, a scramble around the Greentown six yard box somehow managed to stay out of the net. With telling contributions from Zhang Lei and the impressive young centre back Zhao Yuan, the Tianjin attack headed by new CSL import, Fredy Montero, was kept at bay.

After an all too brief Greentown venture into the Tianjin half, the game began to open up around the fifty five minute mark.

After the mounting of a number of dangerous looking counter attacks, both sides were guilty of surrendering possession at the crucial moment. Although living off scraps from the midfield, with Angan playing wide and Cahill struggling to hold his own in most aerial challenges, Greentown’s current lack of an attacking focal point was highlighted by failing to muster a single shot on target. With the counter-attacking game displayed by Greentown in previous rounds being stifled, the forward line were left by and large, anonymous bystanders.

Having lost previous keeper Gu Chao to big spending Jiangsu Suning, new signing Zhang Lei has started his tenure as Hangzhou’s number one in great form. It was the former Chongqing Lifan man who once again kept Tianjin at bay, tipping a curling 67th minute effort from substitute Wang Qiuming onto the crossbar.

Tianjin were beginning to turn up the pressure and Cahill could be considered fortunate to escape being penalised for handball. Having moved his arm towards the ball, albeit in front of his body, it definitely went down in the ‘I’ve seen those given’ category.

Having soaked up a period of sustained Tianjin pressure, Hangzhou finally succumbed in the 74th minute. Having not long being introduced, winter signing Mbaye Diagne out-muscled Matthew Spiranovic to score his first CSL goal, heading home an inswinging corner via the post.

 

Diagne overpowers Spiranovic to head home

Diagne overpowers Spiranovic to head home

 

Having been given a reprieve by the linesman’s flag against Shandong in round three, defending set pieces is looking like a potential weak spot for the Greentown defence and is no doubt an area of concern they will look to improve upon.

Despite a newly found impetus through substitutes Cheng Mouyi and Gambionetta, Greentown offered little hope of an equaliser and the final whistle was blown on a fair 1-0 win for Tianjin Teda.

What a difference a point makes

After four games of the 2016 season, Greentown have six points from two wins and two defeats. At the same stage last season, Phillip Troussier’s Greentown had accumulated a total of five points. Under Troussier, Greentown were excruciatingly inconsistent and the Frenchman was eventually relieved of his duties after a 2-0 away defeat to Guangzhou R&F in round 16 of the 2015 season. While Hangzhou’s record so far in 2016, appears to be equally lacking in consistency and despite having only one point more after four games than their 2015 counterparts, Greentown fans can see the work in progress Hong Myung-Bo is developing, is a far cry from the struggles of recent seasons.

All four of Greentown’s games so far have been keenly contested and decided by narrow margins. Besides this weekend’s defeat at Tianjin, the performances have been positive enough to allow the young side to develop without the pressure of previous year’s relegation battles looming overhead. That said, there is still a long way to go in CSL 2016 and Greentown must find a way to build on their so far impressive home form.

A mid-season return for injured goal scorer, Anselmo Ramon should prove the solution to problems in attack by giving Greentown a consistent attacking threat. With Greentown developing play from incredibly deep so far this season, this could relieve some of the pressure from the shoulders of the young midfielders, who have so far operated on flashes of quality rather than dominating games and showing what they’re really capable of.

Greentown up against struggling Guoan in round five

Next weekend sees Hangzhou welcome surprise early season strugglers, Beijing Guoan. Beijing coach Alberto Zaccheroni will be desperate to reverse Guoan’s poor early season form and Greentown must be cautious. However, having secured two wins from two at home thus far, if Hangzhou play to their potential, there is no doubt they can secure a positive result.

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