Xihu Insider looks back on a month to forget for Greentown who having failed to capitalise on the promise of their early season form. Dubbed ‘Generation 93’, the youthful squad will no doubt be glad to see the back of April in which they slid down the CSL table.
Yilmaz blitz sees off Greentown
The half-time introduction of Burak Yilmaz proved the catalyst for Beijing Guoan to emerge victorious in the driving Huanglong rain. With one goal of immense quality, an assist and the winning of a very dubious penalty, Yilmaz secured Guoan their first win of the season against an uninspiring Hangzhou.
Fortune was never going to be on Greentown’s side from the moment Gambionetta was denied a strong penalty claim in the opening exchanges. Having worked himself some space following a Matthew Spiranovic long ball, the Greentown forward was felled by a clumsy challenge from centre back, Yegor Krimets. However, referee, Zhang Long remained unmoved. With Beijing coming into this game yet on the back of a string of poor results, an alternative decision could have galvanized Greentown into a performance capable of beating what is undoubtedly a talented team. Yet, it was to prove a long, uninspiring game for Hong Myung-Bo’s men.
Despite the now familiar Greentown pressing game, Guoan’s quality on the ball was evident. Still without striker Yu Dabao spearheading the attack, Guoan were wasteful, with Krimets putting a header just wide and Song Boxuan guilty of missing a number of clear cut chances. Despite the best efforts of the outstanding
Renato Augusto, who showed his quality by pulling the strings from midfield, they failed to find a breakthrough.
In the face of an organised Beijing defence, it was a familiar story for Greentown who were restricted to counter attacks from deep. Denilson Gambionetta, frustratingly talented at running into space with no end product, provided a rare outlet of relief for Greentown only to yet again be plagued by a lack of quality with the final ball.
Having been introduced as a half time substitute, it was winter signing Burak Yilmaz who sparked a dour second half into life in the 63rd minute. Capitalising on a loose ball, he found the bottom right corner with an outstanding finish from outside the area.
A minute later, a shell-shocked Greentown soon found themselves 0-2 down. Yilmaz forcing a good stop from Zhang Lei, only for the rebound to fall to Zhang Xizhe, who made no mistake from close range. There was no way back for Greentown.
In the 77th minute, a hopeful cross into the box saw Yilmaz take a tumble with Spiranovic adjudged guilty of a push. The reaction of the Greentown skipper, indicated how ludicrous the decision was but this did nothing to prevent Renato Augusto, the best player on the pitch, making no mistake from the spot.
Outclassed and outplayed, Hangzhou were second best, even before Yilmaz’ impact.
Heartbreaking equaliser leaves Greentown deflated
As Greentown trudged off the rain soaked pitch, an agonising draw snatched from the jaws of a morale boosting victory, felt more akin to a crushing defeat. Having shaded a game which was arguably the most entertaining of Greentown’s season so far, Hangzhou were left to rue an excruciating 93rd minute Chongqing equaliser.
In a first half of flowing football from both sides, good defensive displays all round ensured a lack of goalmouth action. Greentown, impressive with the ball as they have been all season and were looking to play the ball around with purpose, finding more advanced positions and space than in previous games. Despite this, they created little and it was left back Cao Haiqing who provided Greentown’s best first half effort, surging forward to fire a curling effort just wide of the right hand post.
It was a similar story for the visitors, who despite having bright moments of possession, were unable to threaten the Greentown goal. The performances of defensive midfielder Zhao Yuhao, and the dependable Matthew Sprianovic, saw Chongqing restricted in attack, with a Wang Dong cross for Gigliotti to fire straight at the keeper in the 26th minute, one of few attempts at goal.
Whatever manager Hong Myung-Bo said at half time did the trick, with Hangzhou producing an outstanding second half performance. Despite the pouring Zhejiang rain, Hangzhou took the game by the scruff of the neck with a new found impetus and were rewarded for their efforts in the 69th minute. The previously anonymous Feng Gang stooped low, to head a fantastic Ge Zhen cross into the bottom corner, in what was an excellent goal.
The deadlock having been broken, Greentown went for the jugular, with goal scorer Feng Gang producing numerous moments of quality to inspire the Greentown attacking effort. One such run should have ended in a second goal, with substitute Luo Jing, returning from injury, failing to keep his composure to surely secure the game for Greentown.
Chongqing, reeling from the Greentown surge, began to come back into the game and looked dangerous on the break with captain Wang Dong proving instrumental and Brazilian forward Fernandinho growing increasingly threatening down the left. Falling ever deeper, Hangzhou invited Chongqing onto them and with consistent delivery from Fernandinho proving dangerous, Greentown were left holding on by their fingertips.
When Zhang Lei impressively tipped over a header from substitute Jael, Greentown fans began to believe it was their day. However, deep into stoppage time the ball fell to Ding Jie, who crossed for Wang Dong to head home at the far post. Despite a moment’s debate over the validity of the goal, Zhang Lei having produced an acrobatic effort to keep the ball out, it had clearly crossed the line, leading to euphoric Chongqing celebrations.
Conceding so late was tough on Greentown who had just about deserved to leave with all three points.
Ivo magic secures three points for Henan
Despite some promising opening skirmishes, the game was in dire need of a jump start when Brazilian midfielder Ivo smashed home from 30 yards on 25 minutes.
Before what must be up there with CSL goal of the month, if not season, it was a pretty lacklustre affair. Greentown adopting their usual counter attacking style and Henan looking composed in possession. Despite a change in formation, which saw Cahill alone up front, with a trio of attacking midfielders behind him, there was little promise of Greentown halting their recent slump in form.
Despite Feng Gang being denied early on by Ryan McGowan, Greentown were yet again unable to hold any quality possession in the midfield. This left Greentown reduced to having to work hard just to win the ball back, rather than building meaningful attacks of their own. While they cannot be faulted for their level of effort and commitment, working tirelessly to a man, too often was a long clearance or break into nowhere the extent of Hangzhou’s attacking play.
Again Greentown lacked that touch of quality when needed most, Chen Po-Liang the guilty party here, heading wide at the back post while under pressure and shooting tamely at the keeper as the half drew to a close.
Henan themselves were equally wasteful with Yin Hongbo missing a great chance before seeing a point blank header brilliantly saved by Zhang Lei after 59 minutes.
As the final whistle drew closer, Hangzhou gained some impetus, with the usual introduction of Angan stretching the play as Henan dropped deeper. However, it was Angan who was was to prove most wasteful in the box. Moments after blasting wide from a tight angle, he broke free on goal, only to decide to cut back and try to find Cahill on the edge of the box, only for his pass to go astray at the crucial moment.
Ultimately, the final whistle blew with Greentown failing to capitalise on their late momentum, leaving April a month to forget, with Hangzhou having only secured one point from four games.
Hope on the horizon?
Other than the result at home to Beijing in which Greentown were outplayed and ultimately undone by the brilliance of Burak Yilmaz, Hangzhou have been unlucky. The rub of the green in recent weeks has most certainly not gone their way and with the majority of fifty-fifty refereeing decisions seemingly going against them and chances going begging, Greentown are not far away from finding some form again.
2016 has so far seen the emergence of ‘Generation 93’, however these young players cannot be relied upon to provide moments of magic, week in, week out. Senior members of the squad need to step up, particularly in attack, where composure and quality is badly needed. Rumours of Cahill’s departure are beginning to arise, with his short term contract approaching its conclusion. However for now, it is he, along with the frustratingly wasteful Gambionetta and equally inconsistent Angan who Hangzhou are looking to for some inspiration to get themselves out of this slump. With leaders Guangzhou Evergrande next up for Greentown, let’s hope they find it soon.