Following late drama in Nanjing, can Cahill’s header inject life into Greentown’s faltering season or will it be a familiar story of inconsistency and missed opportunities against Guangzhou R&F?
Cahill provides the Greentown faithful with an all too rare moment of joy
It seems an age since Tim Cahill powered in an 88th minute header to secure a deserved point for Hangzhou Greentown away to Jiangsu Suning in round 11.
In what proved a fairly even game, largely betraying the respective team’s vastly opposing fortunes so far in 2016, Jo put Jiangsu Suning ahead in the 27th minute. However, Jiangsu, no doubt all too aware of Greentown’s recent ineffectiveness in front of goal seemed content to hold onto their slender lead, only for Cahill to punish them late on from Feng Gang’s quality cross.
Despite only securing a point on the night, the length of Greentown’s winless streak, a good all round performance and the dramatic nature of the late equaliser, meant the Australian’s header had the aura of a match winning goal for a Hangzhou team in dire need of a positive result.
Another member of ‘Generation 93’ comes to the fore
Having lost their number one goalkeeper, Gu Chao to their Jiangsu for a record ¥50 million over the summer, most Greentown fans would no doubt have been expecting to see the his replacement Zhang Lei continue in goal.
Following his arrival from Chongqing Lifan, Zhang has proved a solid replacement for Gu. However, in an attempt to reverse Greentown’s horrid run of form, Hong Myung-Bo handed an unexpected debut to the 23 year old Zou Dehai.
Unexpected it may have been, yet the young keeper’s performance impressed many. While he potentially could have done better with Jo’s goal, his composed performance will surely mean he’s done enough to keep his place this weekend.
With the introduction of Zou, Greentown fans will be hopefully of unearthing another gem from the seemingly endless conveyor belt of talent from the Greentown academy.
The fortunes of ‘Generation 93’ have proved mixed so far this season, with Cao Haiqing and Feng Gang remaining an constants in an out of form Hangzhou side, yet others suffering inconsistent fates. Due to lack of form, fitness or perhaps off the field issues, Zhao Yuhao and Luo Jing, stars of Greentown’s early season games have become anonymous. With Zhao absent and Luo reduced to a bit part player they have been notable casualties of Hangzhou’s slump. Players of undoubted talent, a return to form and or fitness for both of them would do wonders for Greentown’s prospects.
If Zou were to make the goalkeeper’s jersey his own, it would represent another success for the Greentown academy and their policy of integrating youth into the first team squad. This is important for the future of any club but without the financial muscle of many of their CSL counterparts, for Greentown, it’s crucial.
Can Greentown take their chance against Guangzhou R&F?
When the teams take to the field on Saturday, it will have been two weeks since that morale boosting night in Nanjing and it will be vital for Greentown to carry that positive performance and energy over into round 12. A win on home turf against a team in a similar position in the table, will not only fill them with confidence ahead of two tough away fixtures against Chongqing and Shenhua but restore some belief to the young squad.
With the bottom half of the CSL looking particularly congested heading into round 12, only two places and two points separate Hangzhou Greentown and Guangzhou R&F.
R&F have been fielding a 5-4-1 in recent weeks and this, coupled with three defeats from three for Dragan Stojkovic’s men, means this is likely to be a tight, defensively minded game. With the onus on Hangzhou to attack, it could be the chance for the young midfield to express themselves away from the choking pressure of the recent poor results.
The lack of injury news coming out of the club means it’s anyone’s guess as to whether Matthew Spiranovic will be back but there is no doubt Greentown fans will be hopeful of a return for their influential captain.
Tim Cahill featured in Australia’s two recent games down under but is, judging from Twitter, set to be available against R&F. These two aside, expect Greentown to field an unchanged starting XI.
For R&F, there will be a familiar presence for Greentown fans, with former favourite Wang Song currently a key cog in the R&F midfield. With players such as defenders, Yu Yang and Jiang Zhipeng on the fringes of the national side and with Swedish international Gustav Svensson in a holding role, Guangzhou no doubt remain an unpredictable threat to what remains a fragile Greentown side.
Following Greentown’s morale boosting draw against third place Jiangsu Suning, the ability to capitalise on the energy a late equaliser can give you is vital in defining Greentown’s upcoming fixtures. While 2016 is likely to amount to mid table obscurity at best, the alternative is yet another relegation battle.
With two tough away fixtures in rounds 12 and 13, a win on home turf against another out of form, bottom half of the table team could have a huge impact on their season, a fact the Greentown squad will no doubt be well aware of.
It’s difficult to imagine Hangzhou keeping both a clean sheet and scoring more than a solitary goal. However, expect Greentown to be up for what is potentially a massive game and therefore I expect them to secure a hard fought, 2-1 victory at Huanglong on Saturday.