Xihu Insider: Hong Myung-Bo staying calm but Greentown on course for a hiding ahead of Guangzhou’s trip to Huanglong
Ahead of Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao rolling into town, the Greentown boss faced the media following another defeat and we look ahead to a huge game against the defending champions.
Spirited performance ends in familiar outcome against Henan
It may have taken the best part of 70 minutes, but the Hangzhou Greentown of the early rounds of CSL 2016 did make an appearance last week away to Henan Jianye.
Having fallen behind midway through the first half to an Ivo screamer, Greentown offered little to suggest they could turn the game around. However, the closing stages of the match saw Henan increasingly happy to drop deep and hold onto their lead, allowing Greentown some decent possession of their own.
Despite gaining the momentum, chances remained few and far between. Substitute Davy Claude Angan began to cause the defence problems but had left his shooting boots in Zhejiang, leaving Greentown to ultimately fail in mustering an equaliser.
Pressure? What pressure?
This week, manager Hong Myung-Bo stated he was “not feeling any pressure” and quite frankly, nor should he be. It’s true that recent results haven’t been going Greentown’s way but the fans can see the style of play the Korean is attempting to employ during his so far short tenure, has value. This approach, along with football fans’ love of youth being given a chance, means Hong’s methods have offered enough thus far to suggest it’s an approach which deserves time.
However, while youth always needs time to develop, there of course comes a time in any season where results must achieved and points put on the board. At this early stage, the giants of Shandong Luneng and Beijing Guoan remain below Hangzhou in the standings but it is hard to imagine these teams will still be there come the end of the season.
Zhang Lei has proved an excellent replacement for Gu Chao in goal and Oh Beom-Seok and Matthew Spiranovic are marshaling a solid defence. Greentown, while rightly applauded for their promotion of youth, need points and are in desperate need of some goal scoring form to propel them up the currently tight table.
Having only managed a total of five goals and none away from home thus far, their inability to score is the major cause for concern. Few teams can afford to squander chances, none more so than Greentown, who simply are not creating enough opportunities. If they can crack the code in attack, they can easily be clear of the relegation battle this season and look towards mid table safety.
There is no doubt that the foreign attacking players in the side need to start pulling their weight and show the younger players how it’s done. Davy Claude Angan is regularly explosive off the bench but often anonymous when in the starting XI. Denilson Gambionetta promises much, with countless counter attacking runs, only to try to take on a man too many or simply squander possession with an ill-conceived pass. This, along with consistent bookings for silly revenge fouls, shirt pulls and shoves makes him a liability. Tim Cahill has had an uninspiring start to his most likely, short Hangzhou career and is often far too isolated or too busy with defensive duties to have any impact up front.
In response to the lack of goals, Hong Myung-Bo has bought back the mysterious Tang Yang. Having joined the Greentown youth ranks in 2003, he has been in and out of the club. Although capped twice by the national team in 2009-2010, two seasons in the Portuguese lower leagues and a loan spell last year with third tier Hebei Zhongji doesn’t suggest he’ll make a huge difference. Now 27, he is in theory, in his prime and it will be interesting to see if he can make an impact during his third spell with the club.
Despite no news from the club thus far regarding his comeback, Hong must surely have one eye on the return to fitness of Anselmo Ramon. Once fit again, there are tough decisions to be made regarding the foreign quota, a decision which will be made easier if Cahill decides to not to extend his deal. For now at least, there is a chance for somebody to stake their claim as the man to fire Greentown to safety.
Form of Guangzhou’s big guns spells trouble for Hangzhou
Top of the table Guangzhou are the visitors to Huanglong this week and as it stands, the odds aren’t looking good for Greentown.
Recent history does not bode well for Hangzhou. A record of one draw in the previous eight meetings between the sides is an indication of the gulf in class and the differing ends of the table both clubs have been operating at in recent years.
Coming off the back of a CSL win against Shanghai Shenhua last weekend and beating Sydney FC in the ACL during the week , Guangzhou boast an abundance of in-form talent. With Gao Lin in particularly imperious form, having plundered five goals and fours assists already this season and Alan netting a fantastic brace last week, it’s hard to see Greentown coming away from this one with anything more than an increased negative goal difference.
Greentown will no doubt be up for this game and desperate to avoid another defeat. Angan should start to inject some pace and urgency up front but expect an otherwise unchanged Greentown side, who will be relying on producing a superhuman defensive display to keep Guangzhou at bay.
With the difference in quality bound to show through at some point, my prediction is a 0-3 win for Guangzhou. If Greentown are able to secure a point or even a shock win, it could well be the catalyst for a run of form and a successful season yet.