Instilling a winning mentality in a team is no simple feat. In my entire career as a coach I had never lived the experience of going unbeaten for 19 official matches. It would be as if a team in the Spanish league didn’t lose a game for an entire round of the tournament. We have to look back to August 30th 2014 to find the last match we lost, against Guanghzou R&F. I have analysed this situation trying to find the causes of this success and I have come to the conclusion that offering positive STIMULI to the players and being able to gauge their state of mind are important elements among the origins of this wonderful streak.
Although we have had some significant injuries during this season, the team has responded very well, so against Urawa Red Diamonds I decided to make five changes to the previous line-up, bringing in Zhang Xiaobin (6), Piao Cheng (8), Yu Dabao (19), Erton Fejzullahu (21) and Shao Jiayi (29). Once again, the team put in a solid performance. I am convinced that good athletes perform at their best when they feel confident and self-assured, and I think that is exactly what my team is feeling at the moment. Against Urawa Red Diamonds we played with great confidence, personality and believing we would secure qualification and remain unbeaten.
The five new players performed at a high level. The team’s style remained unchanged and in the first half we dominated the game and the scoreboard clearly. Yu Dabao’s set-piece goal was well-deserved and if Erton Fejzullahu had managed to score in the two chances he had, the match would have had a different ending. But the Japanese managed to rally their strengths and gave us a hard time, especially after they equalised, also from a corner kick, and our centre back Lang Zheng (18) was sent off unnecessarily. The match finally ended in a close tie, with both teams playing very well in an extraordinary stadium. There are just two games left in the group stage and a single point would see us through to the next round. The next match will be at home against Australia’s Brisbane Roar FC and our fans will be there to support us as we strive to reach our first objective of the season.
Gregorio Manzano Ballesteros
Head Coach of Beijing Guoan Football Club