Bottom of the table Qingdao handed R&F their first home defeat of the season on a wet Saturday night in Guangzhou. A second half goal from Zhu Jianrong and a superb injury time save from substitute keeper Mu Pengfei ensured the seasiders went home with all three points.
R&F were without a suspended David, Australian midfielder Royston Griffiths was left on the bench and captain Li Zhe was playing alongside his third different central defensive partner of the season. To add to the disruption this was the first match to be played at the University City Stadium following the enforced move away from Yuexiushan.
The new ground may have better facilities but it still lacks a roof that covers all of the fans which was no doubt part of the reason that this was the lowest attended R&F game of the season. With lightning flashes visible through the open ends of the ground, a downpour timed perfectly for kick-off had all but the hardiest of the hardcore scurrying for cover. This rain made it difficult for both sets of defences and R&F capitalised early on this as Tang Miao, arguably R&F’s best Chinese player, beat Liu Zhen Li at his near post with a cross-cum-shot to leave the R&F fans singing in the rain.
Dreams of repeating the 5-1 thrashing of Changchun were short lived as Qingdao replied instantly. Goalkeeper Cheng Yuelei couldn’t hold Yao Jiangshan’s shot and was just beaten to the rebound by the Uzbek Aziz Ibrahimov who levelled the match at 1-1. Worse was to follow for the Guangzhou side as Qingdao took the lead when Leo San scored directly from a corner after some poor marking allowed the Brazilian to head in.
As half-time approached and the rain disappeared, Qingdao almost doubled their lead but keeper Cheng did brilliantly to block Zheng Long’s effort after Qingdao’s captain had been one on one with Cheng.
Qingdao were made to pay for this as R&F equalised on the stroke of half-time. Played through by Jumar, Tang Miao sent in a low cross that came back out to him after players from both sides had fallen over in the box and, from a prone position, Tang pulled the ball back to Coelho who slammed home the equaliser.
Both Jumar and Zhu Jianrong both had chances to take the lead just after half-time but neither could convert. Zhu quickly made up for this though. After a driving run towards the right corner of the R&F box he cut back and although his first shot was blocked by a sliding Zhao Ming, Zhu collected the kind ricochet and nutmegged Cheng in the R&F goal to give Qingdao a 3-2 advantage.
This would prove to be enough as without David, R&F lacked the quality and willingness to run at the Qingdao defence who sat back and ‘parked the bus.’ Still, substitute Zhang Shuo had a golden chance to level things after beating the offside trap but he was too slow and a brilliant defensive block prevented a shot on goal.
The five minutes of injury time gave R&F hope and almost saw a repeat of the half-time equaliser. However, keeper Mu Pengfei pulled off a flying stop to keep out Wu Weian’s header with the last act of the game.
R&F will be very disappointed to lose their 100% home record to a beatable Qingdao side, especially because the next three games are all tough away fixtures at Nanjing, Beijing and cross-Guangzhou rivals Evergrande so will provide an indication of whether R&F are realistic candidates for the third ACL spot in their first season in the CSL.