Guangzhou Evergrande extended their lead at the top of the Chinese Super League to 13 points on Saturday night as they continued their 16-match unbeaten run with a 3-0 away win over Shanghai Shenxin.
The victory would come courtesy of a hat-trick from in-form Brazilian forward Muriqui, who doubled his tally for the season to six goals after a slow start to his own league campaign.
The sides had gone in level at half-time, following a lively first-half in which both teams should have opened the scoring.
In the early minutes, Gao Lin missed a golden opportunity to break the deadlock from a flighted Conca pass, while soon after Elkeson released Muriqui in the right-hand channel, only for the Brazilian’s shot to come back off the post.
Elkeson himself soon went narrowly wide with a rasping drive from 25-yards, but goalkeeper Zeng Cheng was also having to work hard in the Evergrande net—with a powerful Kieza effort in particular forcing a fine save.
After the break, though, Muriqui would come into his own—with the help of his fellow foreign stars.
Just minutes into the second half, he would come face-to-face with debutant right-back Liao Chengjian on the left-flank, before accelerating and leaving the 19-year-old for dead to cut inside and finish past goalkeeper Liu Dianzuo from a narrow angle.
With Liao having been removed from the firing line, Evergrande continued to attack the Shenxin right-back position and it was substitute Rong Hao who helped set up the side’s second. Reaching the byline, Rong pulled the ball back for Elkeson, whose clever backheeled flick left Muriqui with a clear sight of goal. He, once more, made no mistake.
With the game under control, Evergrande continued to look for opportunities to extend the scoreline, but chances were few and far between. Just under 10 minutes from the end, though, Muriqui would complete his hat-trick as he raced onto a Conca through ball to slot home past the keeper from the right of the area.
Coach Marcello Lippi was critical of his side’s display post-match, with Shenxin having put up an excellent fight in the first-half. However, the might of the champions-elect shone through once more as they completed what was, ultimately, a straightforward victory.
Shanghai Shenxin: Liu Dianzuo; Liao Chengjian (Mao Jianqing 56′), Johnny, Sun Yifan, Jiang Zhipeng; Yu Tao (Yang Jiawei 63′), Zhu Baojie, Liu Wenxi (Zhang Yudong 46′), Ge Zhen; Kieza, Antonio Flavio.
Guangzhou Evergrande: Zeng Cheng; Zhang Linpeng, Zhao Peng (Rong Hao 46′), Kim Young-Gwon, Sun Xiang; Zhao Xuri (Qin Sheng 75′), Zheng Zhi; Gao Lin (Feng Junyan 68′), Conca, Muriqui; Elkeson.