Conca scores brace in final CSL appearance for Evergrande
Guangzhou Evergrande 5-0 Wuhan Zall
Chinese Super League round 30
Elkeson 2′, 22′, Conca 6′, 76′, Gao Lin 80′
This game was everything you’d expect of a season-closer between the confirmed top and bottom placed teams of a league, especially one with a quality gap as large as the CSL. There wasn’t a whole lot in the way of earnest endeavour from either side but the leaders still ran out very comfortable winners, capping off a nigh-on perfect campaign with a 5-0 win against forlorn Wuhan Zall.
Despite all the fuss made about welcoming Cho Won-Hee back to Guangzhou, the Korean wasn’t even on the bench for Wuhan. Evergrande started a full-strength team, absent only Muriqui and Zhang Linpeng; hopefully the pair’s omission from the match day squad was just a precaution rather than an indicator of serious fitness concerns.
The visitors had barely woken up when they were already two goals behind. Rong Hao’s hooked ball into the box looked a little too strong but Elkeson stretched to get on the end of it and shove it past goalkeeper Wu Yan. When Conca stripped off his shirt to reveal a message of thanks to the Tianhe faithful after scoring the Cantonese side’s second, less than six minutes had passed and whatever semblance of a contest this fixture had held was already gone.
Elkeson got his second midway through the half, latching onto a ball lofted over the defense by Huang Bowen before taking it round Wu and slotting into the net from much the same spot as his first, though Mei Fang almost blocked it on the line. For a while it looked like the Elk was actually in with a shout of scoring the four necessary to equal Li Jinyu’s CSL goalscoring record, but Guangzhou eased off and both sides largely went through the motions for the rest of the half.
The second period was a bit livelier as Wuhan decided to start chasing a consolation goal. They came closest when substitute Wang Yang headed onto the crossbar 68 minutes in, but the home defence was generally able to handle anything Wuhan could throw at them with ease, and Guangzhou began to go back on the offensive as the game entered its closing stages.
Conca volleyed home his second with a quarter of an hour left, set up by the again excellent Gao Lin. He was substituted straight afterwards to a massive ovation from the fans, aware how pivotal the expertise of the departing Argentinian maestro has been to their club’s success this season.
His replacement, young Cantonese striker Yang Chaosheng, wasted no time making an impression. He sent Feng Xiaoting free up the right and while the centre-back’s cut-back into the box was too deep for Elkeson, Gao was on hand to collect and finish. Later the Zhengzhou native carefully set up the Brazilian to complete his hat-trick only for him to balloon the ball over from close range, ending any hope he had left of equaling Li’s record.
After full-time, the CSL trophy was presented to the players and staff, sadly decked again in those hideous gold/green jackets reserved for such occasions (though at least Lippi has the clout and sense to demur) and waving around soft toys to boot. The celebrations were quite muted compared to last season’s; no aging pop star blasting out tunes from the back of a garishly decorated truck this time. The vast quantity of enormous lights lining the outside of the track indicate that the club are saving their big party for next weekend, though it remains to be seen if FC Seoul have read the script.
The victory here means Evergrande finish the season eighteen points ahead of their nearest rivals Shandong Luneng, having scored on average two goals more than the opposition in each game. They smashed records left, right and centre as they steamrollered their way to this title, but with midfield lynchpin Conca certainly leaving and others likely to follow including, rumour has it, Lippi to the Chinese national side, we can anticipate that next season’s CSL will be more competitive.
Guangzhou Evergrande: 19 Zeng Cheng; 32 Sun Xiang, 6 Feng Xiaoting, 28 Kim Young-Gwon, 33 Rong Hao; 37 Zhao Xuri, 10 Zheng Zhi, 16 Huang Bowen; 15 Conca, 9 Elkeson, 29 Gao Lin
Subs: 22 Li Shuai, 8 Qin Sheng (for 37 Zhao Xuri 65′), 7 Feng Junyan (for 32 Sun Xiang 73′), 30 Yang Chaosheng (for 15 Conca 77′), 3 Yi Teng, 14 Feng Renliang, 34 Hu Weiwei
Wuhan Zall: 16 Wu Yan; 15 Mei Fang, 28 Xin Feng, 31 Faty, 26 Ke Zhao; 2 Liu Shangkun, 11 Zhu Ting, 17 Li Wei, 7 Luo Yi, 13 Jin Xin; 14 Akabueze
Subs: 22 Sun Shoubo, 20 Li Xing (for 28 Xin Feng 46′), 34 Wang Yang (for 11 Zhu Ting 62′), 21 Cai Shun (for 13 Jin Xin 81′), 5 Zhou Heng, 8 Yao Hanlin, 27 Zhu Cheng
Irish Guangzhou Evergrande fan, following them since I fortuitously found myself living next to Tianhe Stadium in 2011, reporting on them for Wild East Football since 2012.