Having not checked in for a while, Xihu Insider discusses the rollercoaster of fixtures that were rounds 17, 18 and 19 of CSL 2016, a silver lining to being forced out of Hangzhou and previews Greentown’s upcoming game with Beijing Guoan.
Greentown recover from a hiding in Jinan with impressive win against Tianjin Teda.
On the back of three straight league wins and with an all-at-sea Shijiazhuang Everbright the first visitors to their temporary home, Hangzhou Greentown were confident of adding breathing room between themselves and the bottom two. However, a large and passionate crowd brimming with optimism were left disappointed as Greentown offered up a solid, yet uninspiring performance. Bar a late cameo from new signing Sammir, an all-round poor performance in front of goal ultimately saw Shijiazhuang hold on to secure a goalless draw and their first point in five matches. A missed opportunity for Hangzhou.
Greentown headed to Jinan to take on a Shandong Luneng side, revitalised by the arrival of new manager Felix Magath who has overseen a dramatic upturn in form. As Xihu Insider had feared, Greentown were on the end of a hiding and saw precious little of the ball with new signings Pelle and Cisse both scoring their maiden CSL goals in a 4-1 win for the home side. Despite not being as bad as the scoreline suggests, a first goal in Greentown colours for Sammir proved the only consolation in what was ultimately an expected defeat.
For the second installment of their stint in Jinhua, Greentown welcomed Tianjin Teda in what was an excellent Hangzhou performance. With Zou Dehai once again excelling between the posts, Gabionetta finally showing what he’s capable of and Sammir continuing to prove a shrewd signing with two goals and an assist, Greentown ran out 3-1 winners despite a missed penalty and fantastic strike from Tianjin’s Li Yuanyi. Employing an effective 4-3-2-1 formation, with a solid defence and Sammir in behind the now fully fit Ramon, Greentown look a world apart from the side of earlier in the season. With Ramon offering so much more than Tan Yang up top and aided by plenty of promising link up play with loanee Sammir as well as support from Chen Po-Liang and Gabionetta on either side of an attacking midfield trio, Greentown looked fluid and dangerous in attack. Having been extremely critical of Gabionetta in the past, in recent weeks he has been sublime and he capped this performance with a quality goal and the Brazilian is indicative of the new wave of belief coursing through the squad that has seen Greentown drag themselves four points clear of the relegation zone.
Increased attendances and atmosphere provides Jinhua exile with a silver lining
Fears of the G20 enforced move to Jinhua stunting the recent shoots of recovery exhibited by Hangzhou Greentown have thankfully been placated both on and off the field. Having achieved a total of four points from six at their new home and having seen a marked improvement in attendances and subsequently atmosphere following crowds of 15,977 and 14,586 respectively, the move to Jinhua has been to this point at least, a success. With attendances far outstripping the 6,773 fans who turned up to watch Greentown’s previous Huanglong based game, the team have benefitted from the fervent support after being engulfed by the cavernous silence of Huanglong’s lack of atmosphere during the poor run of form earlier in the season..
Granted, Greentown’s first game in Jinhua coincided with a run of three straight wins and if the fickle nature of football fans in Hangzhou is anything to go by, it’s likely a run of form would have attracted an increased number of fans through the turnstiles at Huanglong. However, Greentown message boards are littered with posts from football fans from the likes of Wenzhou and Taizhou, as well as Jinhua who viewed the change in venue as a rare opportunity to attend a CSL game. Between reasonably priced tickets and a side actually winning games, if the move can bring the team into the awareness of the wider Zhejiang population and prompt Greentown to tap into a largely unrepresented market of football fans and perhaps reap the benefits even once they have returned to Hangzhou.
Guoan there for the taking?
Despite having started to turn their stuttering season around Beijing Guoan head into round 20 without a win in four league games, leaving them two places and only two points ahead of Greentown. Having gone out of the CFA Cup on Tuesday night, finding themselves out of reach of the ACL places but surely too good to be sucked into the relegation quagmire, 2016 has little left to offer for Guoan and their fans.
Having only managed to find the net 16 times this season yet running out 3-0 and 3-1 winners in the previous meetings this season across league and cup, indicates Guoan have the measure of Hangzhou Greentown. Despite reservations about the defensive midfield pairing of Huang Xiyang and Chen Zhongliu who with could be vulnerable against a strong looking Guoan attacking line up, Greentown they will arrive at Gongti a vastly different side, both in confidence and form and therefore cannot be written off completely.
Without a win in the capital since a 0-2 victory in 2012, Friday’s game represents a chance to buck the trend of recent head to head form. With only three days since their cup loss to Evergrande and with nothing left to play for, Guoan could be vulnerable if Greentown play to their potential. However, I just don’t see it happening and expect Guoan to have too much for Greentown and to run out 2-1 winners. However, if Hangzhou were to secure a draw, it would represent a good night’s work and an excellent point to bring back to Zhejiang in the quest for CSL safety.