Beijing Guoan was one of the few (if not the only) remaining teams in the Chinese Super League who hadn’t been bloodied by Guangzhou Evergrande since the Cantonese side joined the league, last night changed that.
The Beijingers put in a good effort but were roundly defeated by Evergrande due to defensive errors and a red card setback. It didn’t have to be that way, Beijing looked the better side from the start and had a great chance when a seeing eye pass from Shao Jiayi found Freddie Kanoute in the box, but Zhang Linpeng was in place to block it.
Any concern that Guangzhou was going to get off to a slow start as has been the case much of this season was ended in the 12th minute when a Rong Hao cross found Sun Xiang, playing in his 100th match, all alone on the left. Sun’s curvy volley beat Yang Zhi and put the home side up by one early on.
From there, it was a lot of back and forth play, with Guoan relying on Kanoute and Zhang Xizhe and Evergrande relying on Elkeson. Both sides created some good chances, but both were hampered by the slippery conditions, despite the pre-match rain, Evergrande watered the pitch as well, perhaps worried about Guoan’s speed, though it had a clear impact on both sides.
Just before the half hour mark, Elkeson was all alone going in on Yang, who came out to challenge him and the contact led to Evergrande being given a penalty and Yang seeing red. Despite Zhang Xizhe’s excellent play up to that point, Guoan manager Stanojevic, perhaps sensing the match was over, took him off and brought on backup keeper Zhang Sipeng. Conca converted the penalty to give Evergrande a 2-0 lead.
The Beijingers continued to fight back, but couldn’t produce much, while Guangzhou created chance after chance, though Zhao Xuri’s horrible shooting helped keep Guoan in the match. Credit also to Zhang Sipeng, seeing his first CSL action since 2011 (and only his 4th appearance), he performed valiantly keeping Evergrande off the board.
Evergrande added another in the 66th minute, Conca’s beautiful pass found Zhang Linpeng and then a Zhang cross picked out a wide open Elkeson for a third goal. Back at his club, Zhang showed the skill that regularly has him coming in for high praise, but wasn’t seen during the recent East Asian Cup in Korea.
With a lead now at 16 points (though second place Shandong plays tonight), Guangzhou’s third straight title is a certainty, the only question left is will they go through the season undefeated?