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Tientsin Post: A painful loss in Guangzhou but better news off the field

Jacob Miles Davis brings his regular round-up of all the goings-on at CSL club Tianjin TEDA.

Guangzhou R&F 3-2 Tianjin TEDA

The 3-2 loss in Guangzhou was a bitter pill to swallow as Israeli international Eran Zahavi’s rebounded effort sailed past Yang Qipeng in the 89th minute to secure the win for R&F. It was painful game that should have been a TEDA victory and yet it felt as though other forces were at work. Tianjin began brightly by scoring first and were creating a good number chances.

However, with a defence lacking the solid partnership of Junior and Jovanovic, it was only a matter of time before the team’s frailties were exposed. Within half an hour, Guangzhou had replied with two goals of their own – one an incredibly soft penalty and the other a defensive error. M’baye Diagne levelled the scores and gave a good performance throughout, but was isolated during the second half as TEDA tired.

The fatigue seemed to curse the whole team throughout the second half as passing play became sloppy, long balls weren’t chased or remotely weighted and the midfield were again carved up. It was a far-cry from the first half and it gave fans the sense of anxious depression throughout the second 45 minutes that England fans will know all to well. In the end, the clenched teeth of Okuka and co were not enough to save them as they went down 3-2 in the final minutes.

Tactical mistakes? Or short of options?

Okuka’s substitutions and tactical changes were a little peculiar and have been ridiculed in various fan groups since the game questioning his performance this season. This was always likely, however, and while a run of losses and negative tactics are music to a pessimists ears, the truth is that he’s taken the club away from the relegation battle of last year and moved them into a secure mid-table regardless of his method.

Also, can one really argue with his vision? Managing an under-invested squad, lacking a bastion in midfield with an ever changing group of foreign players was never going to be easy. His attempted conversion of Junior (tough tackling athlete of a centre back) to holding midfield shows how desperate the club are in trying to shore up the middle of the park. His extended contract will come as a sigh of relief for the club as many forecast Montero and Wagner exits in the coming year.

Questions over the lack of a second striker or playing Montero in the hole have been raised in the north stand as TEDA look a little lost going forward. But this may increase the burden for an already frail midfield. As stated in the last edition of Tientsin Post, the problem seems to be investment in the wrong sort of player.

Progressions off the pitch

Some news that would have greeted Okuka on his journey home is the inception of what looks a sustainable youth system being developed by TEDA. Three Portuguese coaches from reputable clubs have been recruited to develop an academy beginning at the under-13’s age group, and It seems the glory days of veteran players Wang Xinxin and Mao Biao are gone as they will assist in bringing through the next crop of youngsters. It seems TEDA have got a lot of catching up to do in terms of infrastructure and development, however, this start can only be considered good news.

The Portuguese coaches are assumed to have come via the CSL’s affiliation with the Portuguese Premeira Liga – a relationship Tianjin has exploited a great deal recently through the transfers of Fredy Montero, Hernan Barcos and Junior. This cocktail of die hard Tianjin ex-pro’s and the European professionalism could hopefully develop heroes for Tianjin’s future as opposed to the idle worship of fleeting mercenaries that fans are currently subject to.

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