Guangzhou Evergrande and Suwon Samsung Bluewings scrapped their way to a goalless draw in their Asian Champions League clash between two former champions here yesterday.
Guangzhou, coached by Italian defending great Fabio Cannavaro, had been brimming with confidence ahead of their first match in the competition despite being dethroned as Chinese Super League champions by first-time winners Jiangsu Suning earlier this month.
At his press conference in Doha on Saturday, Cannavaro had talked about how Guangzhou’s standing as two-time continental winners in the past 10 years made them “one of the best teams in Asia” and thus deservedly can count themselves as one of the favourites for the title this year.
But after the opening draw in Group E, Cannavaro seemed highly perturbed while speaking to the media.
“Of course I am not happy, not about the result, but about the performance because this is not our style,” fumed Cannavaro, who was FIFA Player of the Year as well as the Ballon d’Or winner in 2006.
“We didn’t control the ball, we didn’t create chances and we didn’t try to score.
“I know after the defeat to Jiangsu in the league final, my players have not been in a clear state of mind, but this is the Asian Champions league and it is completely different.
“You play against strong teams and if you don’t give 110 percent in every game, you cannot win.”
South Korea’s Suwon, who had lost their opening game to Japan’s Vissel Kobe nine months ago, were quick to adapt to the conditions at the Khalifa International Stadium where cool blasts of air from the state-of the-art air-conditioning system kept the players comfortable.
The Koreans in fact had the better of the exchanges and more shots at the goal, besides enjoying 56 percent possession.
With the match 15 minutes old, Suwon, back-to-back champions in 2001 and 2002 when the tournament was known as the Asian Club Championship, had their first chance at goal but Kim Tae-hwan’s low shot narrowly missed the mark.
It took Guangzhou some time to warm up to the occasion but even half- chances were hard to come by as the Suwon defence held firm.
They made their first real foray at the 30-minute mark when the Brazil-born Ricardo Goulart, now known as Gao Late after becoming a naturalized Chinese citizen, unleashed a half-volley from a long pass, but was foiled by the defence.
Suwon had a great chance immediately after the break with a well-coordinated move but Guangzhou goalkeeper Liu Dianzuo was fully alert to the situation and thwarted Park Sang-hyeok’s effort from the left of the box.
Late in the match, substitute Luo Guofu almost broke the deadlock but much to his agony his brilliant curling shot from more than 25 yards just about missed the mark.
Suwon coach Park Kun-ha seemed pleased with the result.
“I think today’s match was very difficult as we had expected. We knew our opponents had a very strong attack, so we prepared our defence to cope with them,” he said. “I think we did well today, and it was a shame we couldn’t score a goal.”
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