Guangzhou R&F 0 – 2 Shandong Luneng
China Super League Round 3
Roda Antar ’52, Zheng Zheng ’85
Guangzhou R&F slipped to a third straight defeat, this time to Shandong Luneng who move to the top of the CSL table after their third victory. The visitors scored twice in the second half and Davi was sent off for the hosts in injury time for a petulant shove on Cui Peng.
The form of the sides going into this fixture couldn’t have been more different. Radomir Antic’s Shandong had won both of their opening matches and were leaving the northeast for the first time this season. R&F meanwhile had lost both of their games and under pressure manager Farias reacted by tinkering with his team so much that the only resemblance the starting line-up bore with the one in the match program was that both featured eleven names. After conceding seven goals in two games goalkeeper Cheng Yuelei was dropped for Shi Xiaotian who didn’t feature at all last season. Li Yan and Jumar both returned from injury, the latter from a 10 month break, which meant Davi started on the subs bench but Jiang Ning was promoted from the bench to start his first game, as was fellow winter recruit from Guangzhou Evergrande Li Jianhua.
Despite the heavy rain in the days before the match, the Yuexiushan pitch held up a lot better than that at the home of Guangdong Sunray Cave and the match started without any rain. New keeper Shi was tested early in the first half but was commanding in his area and pulled off some great saves, including rushing out of his goal to deny Gilberto Macena who had earlier missed an open goal as his volley bounced over the bar with Shi stranded after making the initial save from Lu Zheng. Whilst Shandong’s best chances came from shots, R&F’s were from headers with both Coelho and Yakubu putting their efforts over the bar. That was one the few meaningful involvements of R&F’s captain as he looked isolated in attack and struggled to get out of first gear as he was well marshalled by Ryan McGowan and Du Wei in the Shandong defence.
With the game scoreless at the break the largely anonymous Jiang Ning was taken off for Zhang Yuan who instantly got himself involved in the game. Unfortunately for him, he was also responsible for losing the ball which led to the opening goal. Wang Tong spun on the edge of the box and played the ball back to Roda Antar and the former Lebanon captain stroked the ball into the bottom right corner.
Guangzhou manager Farias went for broke and brought on attacking midfielder Davi in place of defensive midfielder Jumar and winger Wu Pingfeng was given his debut. The diminutive Wu was part of all that was good about R&F for the remainder of the game; working hard, creating chances and nearly converting when he connected with Zhang Yuan’s cross after 74 minutes.
With five minutes left Shandong secured the points as Zheng Zheng scored their second goal. It looked like the north easterners were going to hang onto their one goal lead and keep the ball close to the corner flag with nobody in the box to aim at but with a change of corner taker, and a yellow card for time wasting, the plan changed. Cui Peng’s corner eluded everybody and made its way through to Zheng at the far side of the penalty area who volleyed home to seal the win.
In stoppage time R&F’s Davi felt he should have had a freekick following a tackle by Cui Peng but when he didn’t get one he took matters into his own hands. He later caught Macena and when Cui had words Davi put both hands on Cui’s chest and pushed. Not hard enough for Cui to fall down like he did but hard enough that the referee showed Davi a red card.
Shandong are now flying high and top the CSL table on goal difference from Qingdao. And it is to Qingdao that R&F will travel to next week still looking for their first CSL point this season. There were improvements from the horrible away showing in Hangzhou, notably the performances of ex-Guangzhou Evergrande pair Wu Pingfeng and Li Jianhua as well as Jumar coming through unscathed, but there are still more questions than answers hovering over the Cantonese side.