For the ones who were not at the match, here is the match report for the league game we played last saturday:
It all started very well, on that sunny afternoon in Chaoyang Stadium, as we could count on a full squad of 18 players as well as quite a few supporters. Unfortunately, things went pear-shape even before the the game started. The time of kick off , that had already be postponed twice, was further delayed due to the pitch being double-booked. So, after warming-up for almost 1 hour, we finally kicked off the game at 6:30pm. From the start of the game, we could see that we were not going to have it all our way this time round. Athletico, boosted by 6 or 7 good Chinese players was indeed a very much improved opposition compared with the sorry lot we trashed 8-1 in the first half of the season.
Athletico dominated the early stage of the game. Despite this, Palace were the first to find the nets. After about 10 minutes played, a good pass from Chris Lupton, gave Ally the chance to run past their defence from the left wing. He managed a low cross that eluded all Athletico defenders and keeper and that was met by Manuel who converted with a simple tap-in from 5 metres out. At that stage, Lao Cui had also a half-chance to make it 2-0 but he could only find the side of the nets.
Our lead was short-lived, however, and Athletico equalized soon after as their fast Chinese forward collected a long ball that fell behind our central defence and cooly converted. Athletico had several other good chances to score in that first half, finding a post on one occasion. One of their western players also managed to shoot above the bar while presented with an open-goal and just a few metres away from our goal-line. Having weathered the storm, we actually dominated the end of the first half and managed to score again, thanks to Ben Roberts who coming from the right wing, blasted the ball passed their keeper. 2-1 for Palace at half time, thanks to a very good goal per chance ratio and a bit of luck.
In the second half however, Athletico stepped up a gear and was dominating. They equalized early in the second half, thanks to their nippy #7 who after a “Messi-like” run through our defence and along the penalty box took a fierce shot that went just below the bar: 2-2.
In that half we did not create many (any?) clear chances to score while at the other end Athletico were often shooting from long range. Jason had to make a great save on a one of these shots, Gabriel also managed to clear the ball on our goal-line.
Maybe with the score being 2-2, our mistake then was to continue attacking in numbers leaving quite a lot of space for their fast forwards to exploit. With less than 5 minutes to go, on a fast counter-attack they found a breach on the left side of our defence, and their center-forward was left alone to collect the cross and convert the chance. 3-2 for Athletico, final score. A very dissapointing result but quite a fair result if we consider the number of scoring opportunities that both sides had.
For us, we have two games left that we must win if we want to have any chance to win the league. I’ll send the team call for next saturday game in a separate email, following this one.