THREE POINTS AND MISSION ACCOMPLISHED
4 April 2018
In the Matchday 5 of AFC Champions League, Tianjin visited Hong Kong looking to secure the qualification in Group E. A win or a draw combined with a Jeonbuk victory over Kashiwa would be enough to guarantee a spot in the knockout stage.
Paulo Sousa’s 5-3-2 starting formation showed that the Tianjin was trying to balance a good defense with the magic and flamboyance of his attackers. From the home team side, Forlan was also in starting eleven, being the only man in Kitchee’s attack.
The first ten minutes showed the dominance of Tianjin, with a staggering 81% ball possession, 2 corners and 90% passing accuracy, Sousa’s team was all over the field, pressing Kitchee in their own half. On the bench, the Portuguese coach wanted always more, correcting players positions and behaviors, trying to improve from dominance to an advantage in the scoreboard.
The first big goal opportunity came with 19 minutes, Axel Witsel – in front of the goal – lacked calm and precision to score, and a good chance was wasted. At the same time, in Kashiwa, the full time arrived with the victory of Jeonbuk (0-2); so Tianjin was virtually qualified for the next round.
With half hour played, Kitchee leveled up the game, and started to create danger to Tianjin defenders and to the goalkeeper, Lu Zhang. Paulo Sousa was calm and pensive, always in communication with his players.
At half time, the game was similar with the scoreboard, all equal in a tight game. Tianjin finished first half with 63% of ball possession and 257 complete passes, against 149 from Kitchee SC.
In the second half, the game continued balanced and with Kitchee stepping up to Tianjin command and fighting for the three points. With 66 minutes played, Sousa changed the formation to a more offensive one, to a 4-2-3-1, and Tianjin retrieved the game dominance, adding up some goal opportunities.
By the sideline, Sousa was encouraging his players, trying to motivate them and asking to pressing the opponents in the early stages of construction. Even if a draw was enough to secure qualification, the manager wanted more of the game and was showing that to his team.
All the motivation paid off; in the last minute of regular time, Kyung Won Kwon crossed a ball from the right and Anthony Modeste headed to the back of the net.
In the bench and between smiles, the Portuguese coach quickly tried to close down Tianjin’ defense, asking Witsel to dictate tempos and control possession of the ball.
The final whistle came, and the Chinese team could start partying; in the first participation in the ACL Champions League, Tianjin Quanjian qualified to the knock-out stages of the competition.
Tianjin Quanjian starting eleven and subs:
Lu Zhang, Yiming Liu, Cheng Zhang, Kyung Won Kwon and Haolun Mi; Jie Wang (Xiaolong Wang, 66′), Xuri Zhao, Axel Witsel and Yongpo Wang (Zheng Dalun, 66′); Alexandre Pato and Anthony Modeste.
This article has been written by Paulo MCD Sousa Editors Team
Photo: AFC Champions League