Chinese column – Beijing still claiming the ACL-spot

The crucial third position in the league is still open, while 4 teams are fighting to avoid relegation together with Wuhan. Very exciting last two rounds are coming up in China.

Beijing have all season been positioned at one of the ACL league positions, but lately Guizhou has come close and now only one point is between the two sides with two games left of the CSL-season. Beijing got one point Friday evening against Hangzhou in a match controlled by the home side.

The Beijing starting 11 in their normal 4-2-3-1 formation were without number 8 Guerron and 11 Kanoute, but after a disappointing first half, where Beijing did not manage to create a lot of chances, both offensive profiles came on for the last 45 minutes. Number 10 at Beijing the playmaker and key player Zhang Xizhe was maybe tired after the midweek national game, and he did not perform like normal standard and 15 Peter Utaka had a regular off day with bad first touches and lack of timing in his 1v1 offensive actions.

Number 19 the quick winger Wang Xiaolong had a great game and was the only direct threat to a solid Hangzhou-organization. As a coach; when your concept and stile have a bad day, you must rely on individual efforts and number 19 Wang was the most efficient player for Beijing in this phase and clearly ‘Man of the match’.

8. Guerron entered the pitch scoring a great goal, and you could see the importance of that goal watching the head coach Stanojevic – he looked even happier than the players. But after the goal, Beijing stopped playing, stopped moving and their full backs did not run forward anymore, but stayed home to secure the victory. And this was a mistake. Beijing is one of the best possession teams in the league, but they are not a strong defensive team without the ball. Beijing is a bit like FC Barcelona as they like the Spanish giants actually defends best when they have the ball.

The key is to keep the ball in possession and then you are sure the opponents can’t score. To give the ball away and stand low to defend is not the main Beijing-tactic, but they tried on Friday and they were punished for this when Hangzhou equalized.

A 3v1 situation and still there were no pressure on the ball. We saw the Hangzhou number 20 Davy N’Guessan receive the ball with his back towards the goal, turn, look up, find balance and curl the ball to the corner - totally alone with three Beijing-defenders. Way too passive defending by Beijing, who normally is one of the better sides in the league regarding the pressure phase.

So a two-point loss for Beijing as Guizhou won their game and now only one point is between the two sides fighting for the last ACL spot. Two interesting rounds left, where both sides have to face number 2 in the league from Shandong. The key will be which team can get a point or three against Shandong.

Qingdao, Changchun, Hangzhou, Jiangsu – which team will go down?
Four teams are still involved in the relegation battle with only two rounds to go. Mathematically other teams can still go down, but I’m sure that we will find the team between these four clubs.
During the last weeks Qingdao are still looking as the weakest team with an almost non-existing offense. I analyzed them on Sunday against Guangzhou and if we forget the surprising win against Tianjin TEDA they have not scored more than one goal per match since August 7th, where they lost 2-5 to Beijing. Qingdao has scored fewest goals in the league (except from Wuhan), so this will be the main problem for them as they need wins in the last two rounds. And I can’t see how their concept or individual quality will bring them these points.

Jiangsu and Changchun are strong at set pieces and counter attacks, which can give them an advance in tight matches like the ones coming up, so I see a relegation battle between Hangzhou and Qingdao. If we look at the schedule – Hangzhou has a difficult next game against Guizhou, who is playing for the ACL and then an away game in Dalian, where most teams gets problems, so not an easy schedule.

Qingdao is playing home against Jiangsu and then away against Beijing, so I maximum see them win 3 points in these two matches meaning Hangzhou just have to get one point out of their last two games to stay up. So everything is still pointing at Qingdao as the team going down together with Wuhan.

For the development of the football in China, I personally hope that Hangzhou is staying up as they have a very promising U19-team and several interesting young players in their CSL-squad already, but the games have to be played and two interesting rounds are coming up.