A late, late goal from captain Li Zhe gave Guangzhou R&F a 3-2 victory over Shanghai Shenxin at the University City Stadium. Shenxin led 2-1 just after half-time but Rafael Coelho equalised from the spot, Shenxin’s Jonas Salley was sent off and Li’s injury time header secured all three points for the ACL chasing Cantonese side.
Despite the continued absence of R&F’s Brazilian midfielder Jumar, the game still had a heavy South American flavour as all Shenxin’s non-Asian foreign players are Brazilian, Fuli are coached by a Brazilian and have their own Argentinian and Brazilian players. Indeed Davi, the Brazilian, and Coelho, the Argentinian, combined with a training ground free kick move to give R&F their first chance.
R&F were rusty after the three week break with Royston Griffiths in particular guilty of several errors. Shenxin looked confident though and striker Anselmo had already forced Cheng Yuelei into a smart save before Cheng was again called on to tip over Xu Wen’s forty yard effort which was perhaps inspired by Beijing’s Xu Liang.
It was R&F and the man of the moment, Yakubu, who opened the scoring though after half an hour. A well worked passing move on the break between the Nigerian and Coelho coupled with a Davi bodycheck set Yakubu clear on the left of the box and he scored to make it eight goals in nine games since his mid-season arrival.
Just as it was predictable that Yakubu would score, it was equally predictable that R&F would concede from a set piece and they duly did. Wang Yun the beneficiary on the stroke of half-time to level the score.
It got worse for R&F as Shenxin took the lead immediately after the break. Royston Griffiths, who had a poor game by his usual high standards, misplaced a pass and Shenxin raced upfield. It appeared that right back Tang Miao had managed to hold up Wang Yun but Wang somehow hit a low cross and Anselmo ran across centre back Li Zhe to score and give the relegation threatened Shanghai side the lead.
Sergio Farias immediately reacted by bringing on Gao Zhengxiang and Fuli increased the pressure and forced Shenxin to defend their lead, partly by time-wasting. Antonio Flavio was so slow in walking off when he’d been substituted that he was given a yellow card.
A different substitute, Lu Lin of R&F, was to be instrumental in the equaliser just after the hour mark. He raced through onto keeper Cheng’s deflected clearance, the offside flag stayed down but the Guangzhou native Lu didn’t as he was felled by Zou Zhingting and awarded a penalty. Coelho stepped up, stuttered his run up and scored the equaliser.
Shenxin continued their time-wasting as keeper Wu Yangsheng passed the ball out to the Australian Jonas Salley to prevent Coelho grabbing the ball to force a quick restart. Salley inexplicably picked up the ball and trotted over to the left wing, Coelho followed and tried to grab the ball. I missed the next bit because I was too busy celebrating the goal but the video shows that Salley pushed Coelho a couple of times but nowhere near hard enough to warrant the display from the Argentine who went down like the proverbial sack of spuds. He got a yellow card for his part in the affair but Salley was sent off and regardless of Coelho’s overreaction Salley only has himself to blame because it all started because of his time-wasting.
The 10 men of Shenxin dug in and withstood Yakubu’s flicks, Davi’s runs and Tang Miao’s excellent attacking fullback play until stoppage time. R&F’s third consecutive corner was swung over by Lu Lin, Sui Donglu headed it powerfully back across goal and his centre back partner Li was there to nod in and grab all three points. A result he immediately celebrated with Yakubu’s personal fan club of African supporters who have started coming to games in large numbers after the Nigerian was signed.
There was still time for one of the most bizarre endings I have ever seen to a game as Shenxin completely gave up for the final couple of minutes. They stayed in their own half and the Fuli back four were allowed to practice their passing with absolutely no pressure on them at all for the last two minutes. There was no obvious away presence in the stands but if there had been any Shenxin fans in the ground they would have been furious.
As it is Shenxin are still in the relegation dogfight ahead of next week’s Shanghai derby and R&F remain in the ACL hunt having gone third following Jiangsu’s win over Guizhou. R&F Manager Sergio Farias will hope to have Jumar available for the first time since June for next week’s trip to bottom side Henan to cement third place.