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Guangzhou Evergrande FC: Chinese Super League Champions 2011

Gao Lin lets the Champagne fly late last night (osports.cn)

Guangzhou Evergrande clinched their first ever Chinese Super League title last night with four rounds of the league still left to play.

The Cantonese side won their match against Shaanxi 4-1, but with that game an early 5pm kick-off, they had to wait until around 9.30pm last night to find out if second-placed Beijing could beat Shandong to mathematically stay in contention. But that game finished 1-1, meaning Guangzhou, who have led the Chinese Super League for virtually the entire season, could no longer be caught.

They become the first ever newly-promoted team to win the league in their first season, and are the sixth different winner of the Chinese championship since it was re-launched as the Chinese Super League in 2004.

Chinese national team striker Gao Lin led the celebrations at a private club party after news reached the squad that Beijing had failed to win.

Guangzhou’s Korean manager Lee Jang-soo, himself a former head coach of Beijing Guoan, told FIFA’s website that he was proud of his players, and that his team had found its form just in time to win a tough away match and seal its maiden championship.

The club was bankrolled this season by  Chinese real estate company the Evergrande group, and made a huge investment in its playing squad, singing major stars such as Brazillian League player of the year Dario Conca for $10 million  from Fluminese.

Having won the Chinese Super League so comprehensively,  footballing eyes from accross the entire continent will be focused on the club next season as it makes its first attempt to win the Asian Champions League.

A leading international commentator on Chinese football frequently quoted by the world's top media. Offers piercing and resolutely honest insights into the bustling crossroads where football, society, economics and politics meet in contemporary China. Based in Shanghai since 2005, observer of the Chinese game since 2000.

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