Zhizhao makes starting debut

Zhizhao makes starting debut

By Tiago Bontempo (follow Tiago on twitter @GunnerTNB)

He receives the ball on the left wing, skips past his marker and accelerates towards the box. After leaving another defender in his wake near the goal line, he passes back to a teammate who has the easy task of scoring with the keeper already beaten.

Chinese forward Chen Zhizhao made his starting debut for Corinthians

See footage of his assist below!

With that beautiful play, that resulted in an assist for Giovanni, Chinese forward Chen Zhizhao could have been the hero of the day if it wasn’t for a quick counter-attack that saw the home side, Paulista FC, equalise with just ten minutes remaining.

In this first round of the Paulista Championship, which marked the beginning of the 2013 season (Brazilian Série A starts only in May), current Club World Cup winner Corinthians rested all regular starters, which saw the 24-year-old finally get his chance – his first start almost one year after being signed from Nanchang Hengyuan.

In the whole 2012 season Zhizhao had no more than one appearance, in which he played only 13 minutes but showed flashes of quality in a 2-1 loss against Cruzeiro in Série A last October.

This time he played the full 90 minutes and was the only shining light in an otherwise unimpressive Corinthians side.

Playing mainly as a left winger (sometimes changing to the right) in a 4-2-3-1 system, he showed pace, aggression and was given the task of taking corners and free kicks. Even though he lost the ball and lacked control on some occasions, the spotlight of the match couldn’t have gone to anyone other than Zhizhao.

After the final whistle, a reporter tried asking questions in Portuguese, but he showed difficulties with the language when trying to explain the goal was as a result of the entire team, not just himself. When asked if he liked his performance, he limited himself to a brief “yes”.

A permanent starting spot seems out of reach at this stage, but the good news for Zizao, as he is called in Brazil, is that he should continue in the first team for now as the regular starters still won’t be available for the next match, on the 23rd January, against Ponte Preta.

If selected again by manager Tite, Zhizhao will, for the first time, play in front of the fanatic supporters who already love him.

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