Last chance in Guangzhou

Two teams making a last go at holding on to distant ACL-dreams for next season faced off in Guangzhou. It was high intensity from the start with visiting Beijing Guoan getting the clear chances, the visitors had an early goal disallowed when Song Boxuan was played through, and may well have been onside, in the fifth minute and after 25 minutes Zhang Xizhe forced Cheng Yuelei to stretch his body to full length to reach the ball with his fingertips. Guangzhou R&F had all kinds of trouble dealing with Guoan’s high pressure but, in the 29th minute, Guoan lost the ball going forward and the home side broke quickly through Chen Zhizhao who handed the ball off to Eran Zahavi, continued straight ahead and was played clean through by the Israeli to make no mistake and place the ball calmly between the legs of Yang Zhi to put his side in front.
R&F were encouraged by taking the lead and nearly doubled it in the 31st minute, but Zahavi failed to get a proper connection with the header and the ball went wide off his shoulder instead. 2 minutes on Guoan took back the initiative and Cheng was once again forced to show his worth for the home side to keep Jonathan Soriano’s nicely curled freekick out. Short thereafter, a free-kick routine set up Zhang Gong but the powerful shot ended up wide in yet another almost-moment for Guoan, who created a few more, less qualitative opportunities, before going into the break still trailing.

R&F came out and, instead of falling back and defending the slender lead, moved positions forward to try and even out the odds which nearly resulted in 2-0 within the first minute of the second half. Guoan were hardly deterred and nearly equalised from a header before the clock had reached 48 minutes. The game was anything but organised and it was wide open at both ends. R&F created as much in 7 minutes as they did in the first 45 and Guoan still looked dangerous as well. Zahavi came close to adding to the tally again but was denied by a fine save by Yang in the 58th minute.
Despite R&F’s massive improvement in the second half, the equaliser was thoroughly deserved when it finally came as Soriano was set up by Yu Dabao and slotted home after an hour of football. The capitals happiness was, however, ephemeral and lasted only eight minutes before CSL top-scorer Eran Zahavi was played through by Jiang Zhipeng and put the ball past Yang for his 25th goal of the season.

Back in front, R&F fell back and the match looked more like it did in the first half. However, Guoan had more trouble turning possession into chances. It was simply too crowded in the R&F box to find any openings and the home side held on to get three very important points in their already very successful season. For Guoan it was another example of the theme of their 2017, attractive offensive play but ineffectiveness resulting in less than what they may have deserved.

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