The gulf between the Chinese Super League and the Hong Kong Premier League was reinforced after Guangzhou Evergrande defeated Eastern by a resounding 6-0 and over the two ties, 13-0.
AFC Champions League Group G
Guangzhou Evergrande 6 Paulinho 8, 82 Mitchell (OG) 40 Alan Douglas 50, 71 Yu Hanchao 90′ + 1′
The CSL champions secured their qualification from group G to the knock out round of the Asian Champions League after a comfortable win in what were very tough conditions.
The pitch was subjected to torrential rain before kick off which saw muddy and slippery conditions. The state of the pitch slowed down play but also saw many mistakes made by both sides. Amid tight security and a huge television audience, Eastern made the brighter start with Jaimes McKee’s cross turned shot saved by Zeng Cheng in the Evergrande goal in the fourth minute. From then on Evergrande took control. Eastern again lacked any decent forward movement except for Mckee playing well with incisive runs down the wing on the right.
Evergrande’s took the lead in the 8th minute via Paulinho whose header flew past Yapp in the Eastern goal after a Zhang Linpeng cross. Evergrande went up 2-0 after an own goal from Josh Mitchell, after another cross from Zhang Linpeng, in the 40th minute.
The domination by Evergrande continued in the 50th minute after Alan Douglas side-stepped several players and slide the ball into an empty net and Alan scored again in the 71st minute after he tapped in a cross from Liao Lisheng. Eastern had a glimmer of hope in the 76th minute when Mei Fang’s back header hit his own post after pressure from McKee and Josh Mitchell headed over from the resulting corner. Paulinho and Yu Hanchao rounded off the misery for Eastern with goals in the 82nd and 91st minutes respectfully. Guangzhou had 69% of the possession and were rarely troubled all night.
The win Evergrande meant top Group G whilst Eastern have been eliminated in their first group campaign. After the game, Scolari stressed that Evergrande ‘Capitalized on our chances’ and he was not impressed by people’s comments on his tactics:
“It is weird, if i make a substitution then some people think it is too early and if I do it late then it is too late. It is my right. I don’t know why we have won 6-0 in the Asian Champions league and there is still some negativity.”
Alan Douglas of Evergrande said the “The pitch was awful.”
Hong Kong football mainstay, Ricardo Rambo, shared his views on the game: “I think Evergrande again showed another level as they were patient and played with quality right to end to finish well”.
Atom Cheung, RTHK sports commentator also shared his views on the lopsided game.
“I thought the quality of the football was boring but that is probably due to the wet pitch and Eastern clearly got outclassed and the Brazilians really came out to play; Alan, Paulinho, Goulart and it seemed they had a lot of space out there on the field to do what they wanted. The game itself was boring.”
The game was played amid tight security and the Evergrande away fans were situated at the clock end of the stadium. Due to another ticketing fiasco, the away fans section was moved to a wider area of three more stands (19-21) in order for all the Evergrande fans, who had brought tickets for the Eastern sections, to congregate. A political banner which made reference to crushing Hong Kong independence was unfurled in the Evergrande end and when Scolari was asked about it, he merely stated that “I was focused on the game and I did not see what happened in the stands.”
Importantly, more was at stake than points, regional pride was settled fair and square.
Hong Kong Premier League leaders Eastern return to domestic action on May 6 with a mount-watering winner-takes-all clash against 2nd placed Kitchee. Eastern, on 49 points, only need draw the match at Mong Kok stadium whilst Kitchee, on 48 points, must win. This has been the tightest end to a season in years and great for local fans.
If Eastern seal the championship then manager, Chan Yuen Ting, will win two back to back league titles.