Debutant Yakubu Aiyegbeni scored a late goal to win the Guangzhou derby for R&F last last night to cut Evergrande’s lead over Jiangsu at the top of the CSL to just four points. In a pulsating encounter both on the pitch and in the stands another CSL debutant, Lucas Barrios, had two gilt-edged chances for Evergrande but couldn’t capitalise.
R&F are still without centre back Xu Bo who was injured whilst on national duty and influential midfielder Jumar who is expected to be out until September due to an injury picked up in the CFA Cup. This meant there was no selection dilemma over which foreigners to play for R&F coach Sergio Farias, whilst Evergrande’s Lippi opted for Cleo, Conca and Paulão as his three non-Asian starters which meant Barrios was on the bench.
Evergrande dominated the opening period of the game with their players always managing to find space on the left, right or, most worryingly for R&F, straight through the middle. It only seemed a matter of time before they scored but some poor shooting kept the game even. R&F gradually came more into the contest and Yakubu pulled off a smart turn inside the box but his shot was saved by Yang Jun. The ball seemed to spend little time in midfield as both sides created chances and it was a surprise when half time arrived with the score nil-nil.
The atmosphere inside the Tianhe ground was amazing with a near capacity crowd and fans of both clubs chanting and waving their scarves. The noise and high tempo continued into the second half with Cleo almost scoring right after the break. He did get the ball in the net later after slipping away from his marker Li Zhe but the goal was ruled out for offside.
Formerly of German champions Borussia Dortmund, Lucas Barrios then came on to make his Evergrande debut and was greeted by a wall of noise from the home fans. He almost scored immediately but was foiled by a combination of the post and keeper Cheng Yuelei.
Li Zhe had a header saved from a corner and it was from an 85th minute corner that the only goal of the game would come. Fittingly for the Guangzhou derby, the cross was swung over by Cantonese substitute Lu Lin and met by Yakubu. The video is inconclusive about whether he used his arm, shoulder or head to get the ball over the line but the referee saw nothing wrong despite the violent protests of the whole Evergrande side and the home fans. There was a moment of stunned silence in the away end and then total ecstasy; I’ve never seen anything like it before.
Deep in injury time Barrios had another chance but was again denied and R&F left Tianhe with all three points and have now done the double of city rivals Evergrande after a 2-0 win at Yuexiushan in March. The result halts R&F’s losing streak and cuts Evergrande’s lead at the top to four points following Jiangsu’s win against Hangzhou.