The first Guangzhou derby of the Super League era was won by newly promoted Guangzhou Fuli who played largely on the break to defeat reigning champions Guangzhou Evergrande 2-0.
This might have been the first derby but you wouldn’t have been able to tell this by the atmosphere inside the Yuexiushan stadium. Evergrande had used their full allocation of tickets and at times their fans generated so much noise that it was hard to tell who the home team were.
The pattern of play on the pitch would have suggested this too with Evergrande dominating both possession and territory, limiting Fuli to play on the counterattack. But it was Fuli who were to have the first chance, an unmarked Zhang Shuo heading straight at the keeper from a corner. Before the game had had chance to settle down into a pattern Fuli were ahead. David burst down the left flank, stepped inside one and knocked the ball past Paul Long who then brought him down inside the area for a penalty kick. The Evergrande keeper guessed the right way but couldn’t get to Zhang Shuo’s penalty before it went into the bottom corner. 1 – 0 Fuli.
Evergrande had a golden chance to pull level when Gao Lin was played clean through into the box. His shot squirmed under Fuli keeper Cheng Yuelei who recovered just in time to prevent the ball rolling over the line. Evergrande continued to press and after forty minutes Wu Pingfeng was allowed to turn in the box after some sloppy Fuli defending but his shot went wide.
Fuli held on to lead at the break but were immediately pushed onto the defensive again at the start of the second half, keeper Cheng Yuelei making fine saves from long range efforts from Zhang Lin Peng and Zhao Xuri. Roared on by their vocal fans Evergrande continued to press and on 67 minutes a reverse pass and dummy sent Conca straight through the heart of the Fuli defence but a superb covering challenge by Zuma denied him the chance of a shot on goal. It had to be a great tackle or a penalty and the Evergrande fans howled their disapproval of the referee’s decision not to award a penalty.
Just after 70 minutes a horrendous lunge by Fuli’s Lu Lin brought him a yellow card, one of 9 given out on the night in what was not a particularly bad tempered game for a derby but had enough clumsy tackles to warrant the bookings. Fuli were committing more fouls as they were penned back but doubled their advantage with a breakaway goal after 82 minutes. Substitute Royston Griffiths broke up yet another Evergrande attack and fed David who raced down the right wing and sent in a low, hard cross that was met by a sliding Zhang Yuan who poked the ball beyond the keeper to make it 2-0.
There were late chances for either side to score again but neither could capitalise, David missing for Fuli and Evergande’s Cleo rounding the keeper only to trip and fall at the other end, so Fuli hung on for a 2-0 win.
Evergrande, for whom Muric was very impressive, dominated for large parts of the game with Fuli content to sit back and defend, especially in the second half, but it was Fuli who made their chances count. Evergrande fans continued chanting well after the final whistle but the players must now pick themselves back up for their ACL game in midweek whilst Fuli can revel in the moment after beating the top two from last season on consecutive weekends. As it says on the back of the t-shirts of the Fuli supporters, it truly is “the start of a dream.”