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Unlucky Zheng Long’s Season Over after Starring Role in Hangzhou Hammering

Guangzhou Evergrande 4-0 Hangzhou Greentown

China Super League Round 25

Zheng Long 41′, 52′, Elkeson 75′, Muriqui 78′

For the third game in succession Guangzhou Evergrande put four goals past their opponents on the way to victory, despite fielding a substantially different line-up from that used in those previous ACL fixtures. Zheng Long put in a man of the match performance, scoring the opening brace, as Lippi started an all-Chinese team for the first time in the CSL.

Despite the fringe status of the some of the players, they were more than up to the job, and Guangzhou were looking comfortable long before the Brazilians were sent on to finish Hangzhou off. Sadly, Zheng’s efforts to play himself into contention for an ACL semi-final spot were in vain, a foot injury sustained near the end of this contest prematurely ending his season.

Veterans Zheng Zhi and Sun Xiang were rested along with the foreign contingent, and Evergrande initially lined up with Zhang Linpeng, Zhao Peng, and the still below-par looking Feng Ziaoting in defense, and Rong Hao and Feng Junyan on the flanks. 20-year-old Cantonese striker Yang Chaosheng, who had previously scored against these opponents in the CFA Cup quarter-final almost two months ago, made his CSL debut and while he didn’t do anything special, he didn’t look out of his depth either.

Lippi’s favoured goalkeeper last year, Li Shuai, also made a first CSL appearance of the season and acquitted himself better than he had in many matches in 2012. True, Hangzhou didn’t threaten all that much, but a few good saves were required and Li never looked in trouble en route to a first clean sheet in five games for the team.

Most of those saves were from shots by Hangzhou’s lone foreign starter, Davy Angan of the Ivory Coast, who is finding life in the CSL more difficult than in his previous seasons in Norway; this was the striker’s sixth consecutive game without a goal, and while he was certainly Greentown’s most threatening player, his finishing left quite a bit to be desired.

Feng Gang also impressed intermittently, but possession and attacking pressure were dominated by Evergrande, with Zheng Long in the centre imposing himself on the contest from the off. He came close a couple of times before opening his account shortly before half time, and doubled the lead six minutes after the restart. There was an element of luck to both goals, with keeper Gu Cao fumbling the first and a deflection helping in the second, but they were no more than he deserved for his performance.

Gao Lin provided the assist for both goals, but yet was often greedy in possession, losing the ball down blind alleys, and was replaced on the hour by Elkeson. Muriqui joined him on the pitch twelve minutes later, young Yang making way, and shortly afterwards unselfishly cut the ball back in the box for his compatriot to sweep home his 22nd league goal of the season; the Elk now needs to score four goals in the final five matches to equal Li Jinyu’s CSL top goalscorer record.

It took Elkeson three minutes to return the favour, and there were more opportunities for the pair in the final ten minutes of the game as Hangzhou looked every inch the relegation candidates that they are. However with Wuhan doomed and a Zheng Long-less Qingdao dropping down the table like a stone, it seems likely they will manage to survive for another year in the top tier.

Zheng didn’t stop looking to add to his tally here either, but unfortunately hurt himself in volleying an Elkeson knock-down in the box with four minutes of normal time left. Gu seemed to think he was suffering from cramp and tried to assist him, but it was confirmed after the match that the injury is serious enough to rule him out for the best part of two months. At least Huang Bowen was fit enough to come on for the last quarter of an hour, having being withdrawn early from last Wednesday’s ACL game in Japan after taking a knock.

Evergrande now need just two more points (or realistically one, given the goal difference) from their last five games to secure the title, and it is probable that this year it will be won on the road, as even if Shandong manage to beat them in Jinan next Sunday, it’s unlikely that Liaoning would be able to repeat the feat in Shenzhen in the subsequent fixture. Hopefully, Lippi will use the remaining matches to give us a look at some more underused squad members; it was very heartening to see what an Evergrande side shorn of its foreign stars is capable of.

Guangzhou Evergrande: 22 Li Shuai; 4 Zhao Peng, 6 Feng Xiaoting, 5 Zhang Linpeng; 33 Rong Hao, 7 Feng Junyan, 8 Qin Sheng, 37 Zhao Xuri, 12 Zheng Long; 29 Gao Lin, 30 Yang Chaosheng
Subs: 1 Yang Jun, 9 Elkeson (for 29 Gao Lin 60′), 11 Muriqui (for 30 Yang Chaosheng 72′), 16 Huang Bowen (for 8 Qin Sheng 77′), 15 Conca, 28 Kim Young-Gwon, 32 Sun Xiang

Hangzhou Greentown: 1 Gu Cao; 16 Fan Xiaodong, 37 Zhao Yuhao, 19 Tang Jiashu, 24 Liu Bin; 2 Song Zhiwei, 33 Wang Song, 13 Cao Xuan, 14 Feng Gang, 22 Wang Lin; 20 Angan
Subs: 29 Bo Jiang, 23 Huang Fengtao (for 22 Wang Lin 59′), 7 Xie Zhiyu (for 13 Cao Xuan 79′), 11 Oguru (for 20 Angan 79′), 3 Dong-Jin Kim, 4 Sun Zheng’ao, 17 Yang Zi

Irish Guangzhou Evergrande fan, following them since I fortuitously found myself living next to Tianhe Stadium in 2011, reporting on them for Wild East Football since 2012.

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