Chinese column – Evergrande at an international level

We saw a great Friday match at Hongkou between Shenhua and Evergrande and also Greentown and East Asia had some good moments in a week, where R&F surprisingly enough won over Beijing.

Shenhua – Evergrande

I was really looking forward to this game, because it was the only two teams without a loss in this seasons CSL, and it was a great night at Hongkou with a lot of people, intensity on and off the pitch and an interesting game, where Marcello Lippi again showed his experience and football knowledge.

First half:

Shenhua started the game with a fantastic spirit and the home team was very aggressive and tried with high pressure on Evergrande. Ballista’s team really tried to surprise the favorites and take control of the game and with some success.

The home side had a few very good chances and we didn’t see Conca or Elkeson doing much offensive wise for Evergrande, because Shenhua was standing high with the back four (defense) close to the middle of the pitch meaning they won all the important second balls, when Evergrande was trying to clear the ball and gain possession. The key to a solid pressure and winning the second balls is a high back four defense ready to break out of the chain and go into pressure for winning the ball. And Shenhua was solid in this phase.

Interesting was it also to analyze that Evergrande hit their crosses in the room around the right full back, number 5, Dai Lin and the keeper Wang Dalei of Shenhua. I think Evergrande have been analyzing Shenhua and found that space interesting with an obvious chance for a goal after a cross – also due to that Wang Dalei’s weak side is crosses and set pieces. We saw 5 crosses coming to that area in the first half, so a clear game plan from Evergrande.

But Shenhua was the best team in the first half, and the stadium and home fans was shouting on Shenhua and felt that they could beat the champions this Friday night in Shanghai. Of course Shenhua had a few chances, but in my perspective they were playing rarely naïve. They used too much energy in the first half and Marcello Lippi was just waiting and waiting to take over and control the game. He even brought on two fresh players during the half time and that killed Shenhua. The Evergrande tactic had international level this Friday night.

Second half:

Gao Lin came on and Zhang Linpeng started to run overlaps and he never stopped again – impressive endurance. This movement gave more space to Conca in the middle and suddenly the Argentinian started to control the game, finding the passes and distributing the balls. And then Evergrande is difficult to handle. Shenhua came 1-2 seconds later in their pressure compared to the first half and this is enough for Evergrande to play around the home side. Football in top level is about details. And one detail in this match was that Shenhua could pressure Evergrande good for 45 minutes, but not more than that. And then the top players of the away took over the game.

Some fans would say that Evergrande was lucky in the first half, which could be a fair point. Shenhua had some good chances, but my analysis is that Lippi and Evergrande also has a very important Asian Champions League game this week and therefore they wanted to keep their players relatively fresh, so they played almost 4-4-1-1 in the first half at Hongkou waiting for Shenhua to get tired and took over the game, brought in a star player like Gao Lin and won 3-0. It’s a classic Italian tactic, where the clever team waits for the right moments and then win the game without even top performing over 90minutes. Respect for Lippi and his football knowledge.

Man of the match for me was either Zhang Linpeng or number 28 Kim Young-Kwon. A modern central defender with quality in all aspects of the game. He is modern, so calm and with some elegance with the ball that make me think of my Danish fellow Daniel Agger from Liverpool FC. Great game by Young-Kwon this Friday evening.

Zhang Linpeng impressed me again with his physics, speed, endurance, solid passing play and very competitive crosses. I hope we will see him as the first real Chinese star in Europe in this decade. He could play for a middle team in the Premier League or the German Bundesliga, where the physics would fit in perfect.

CSL update

In other games of the weekend, R&F got an important and impressive victory against Beijing, who seems to be in a bad period. The capital team is already 7 points after Evergrande, which will be almost impossible to catch up due to Evergrande’s international level and steady curve.

Hangzhou Greentown is still not impressing with their style, but they got three points after two set pieces. Great second goal by their captain! But I am still wondering how a Japanese coach can play so not-Japanese style? Long balls, no clear game plan and too many weak passing players.

In the end here – also big congrats to Shenxin and Tianjin, who got some good points in two difficult matches. Let the CSL continue the fine level!