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Analysis: Tidy Tianjin topple two-time champions Guangzhou

Monday, May 21, 2018

Guangzhou: Tianjin Quanjian’s maiden AFC Champions League campaign continued apace on Tuesday, as they eliminated fellow Chinese side Guangzhou Evergrande on away goals after a 2-2 draw in their Round of 16 second leg at Tianhe Stadium.


Guangzhou huffed and puffed, but in the end quality at both ends of the pitch ensured Tianjin progressed to the quarter-finals at the expense of the two-time champions.

Tianjin on target

With the first leg having finished 0-0 in Tianjin, the visitors knew even a score draw here would see them through to the quarter-finals, and Paulo Sousa’s side played a patient game as a result, only taking four shots in comparison to Guangzhou’s astonishing 31.

While the hosts were wasteful with many of their attempts, however - sending 22 off range - Tianjin were ruthless.

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Two of their efforts failed to trouble Zeng Cheng, but the Guangzhou goalkeeper wasn’t able to do anything about the two that did find the target, with Alexandre Pato and Wang Jie both getting their names on the scoresheet to decide the tie.

Zhang Lu saves see Tianjin through

The away goals of Pato and Wang Jie secured Tianjin’s progression, but goalkeeper Zhang Lu’s contribution was of equivalent importance.

The 30-year-old was by far the busier of the two stoppers but didn’t let his concentration slip for a moment, even after getting a little unfortunate for Ricardo Goulart’s opener.

He made seven saves over the 90 minutes to keep his team in the game, with a wonderful double stop from Li Xuepeng and Gao Lin in the 40th minute the pick of the bunch, ensuring Tianjin went in still level at the break and primed to see the job through.

Zhang Linpeng leads Guangzhou charge

Guangzhou’s elimination didn’t come about for the want of trying, and as ever Zhang Linpeng was one of their hardest working players.

The right-back was the key outlet for Fabio Cannavaro’s side, receiving 13 passes from Nemanja Gudelj and 11 from Feng Xiaoting as he pushed up his flank.

As his heatmap shows, the 29-year-old maintained a very advanced position, although while this was a positive for Guangzhou in an attacking sense – he attempted 10 crosses, finding a teammate with four of them, for instance – the space in behind also offered Tianjin plenty of encouragement on the counter.

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