Guangzhou Evergrande returned to winning ways on Friday evening with a 2-0 away victory over Jiangsu Sainty in Nanjing, in a game that marked a return to form for striker Elkeson in front of a terrific 52,000 crowd.
CHINESE SUPER LEAGUE ROUND 4
Jiangsu Sainty 0
Guangzhou Evergrande 2
Elkeson 27′, Rene Junior 43′
While the Brazilian boasts a respectable return of three goals in six matches in 2014, his finish from the penalty spot in defeat to Changchun Yatai last weekend had been his first goal since the 26 February season-opener against Melbourne Victory.
With a goal and an assist on this occasion, the 2013 Chinese Super League top-scorer put in his best performance of the season to date, while also ensuring Evergrande maintain their impressive record of never having lost two consecutive CSL games since their 2010 takeover.
Last week’s defeat to Changchun had understandably prompted questions as to the three-time champions’ current readiness for the challenges of the seasons ahead and, while those doubts still exist, comfortable success over Jiangsu will have eased concerns among the fans.
The match began in lively fashion, although with neither side able to convert their attacking intent into clear-cut chances until the 21st minute, when Alessandro Diamanti picked out Gao Lin in the centre of the area only for the striker’s shot to be blocked.
Five minutes later, though, Evergrande were ahead and Diamanti’s delivery was once more a key factor. The Italian’s in-swinging free-kick to the near post saw Elkeson beat goalkeeper Guan Cheng to the ball, before prodding home into an empty net from the loose ball. Evergrande’s relief was tangible, while Jiangsu will have been left cursing the weak efforts of their goalkeeper.
The game’s one moment of real quality would come shortly before half-time, though, and it was goalscorer Elkeson who turned provider on this occasion.
Picking the ball up on halfway and spinning past the tackle of Korean Yoon Shin-Young, the Brazilian charged down the wing before cutting back infield between Yoon and Roda Antar courtesy of some quick footwork. With the goal beginning to open up with two of the three centre-backs now out of position, Elkeson opted to coolly square the ball across the face of the net for Rene Junior to slide home for his third goal in four appearances.
While the impressive assist will grab the headlines, Jiangsu coach Gao Hongbo will be far from impressed with the contributions of his defence in the build-up to the goal, with Yoon and Antar both guilty of poor efforts to stop Elkeson’s surge forward.
Within a minute of the restart, Jiangsu’s Brazilian forward Elias almost made an immediate impact after his half-time introduction after tumbling in the area as he attempted to surge past the tackle of Zheng Zhi. Replays, though, showed the referee to be right in waving away the home side’s protests.
A Ren Hang effort from the corner of the box struck the outside of the post, while Li Ang fired a free-kick over the bar from 35 yards as Jiangsu sought to find a route back into the encounter. A Sun Ke free-kick would also later sting the palms of goalkeeper Zeng Cheng.
Evergrande, though, remained largely in command throughout and created half chances of their own, although little worthy of note.
The champions move second in the table behind high-flying Shanghai East Asia at this early stage of the season, but may now be forced to play without Rene Junior for up to four matches.
The Brazilian was caught on camera raising his middle finger to opposite number Liu Jianye at the end of the game, following an ongoing feud between the pair. This most heinous of offences will doubtless be severely dealt with as the highest priority by the powers that be at the Football Association.
Jiangsu Sainty (3-5-2): 26-Guan Chen；2-Li Ang、6-Roda Antar、30-Yoon Shin-Young；23-Ren Hang (67’ 5-Zhou Yun)、22-Wu Xi (46’ 11-Elias)、16-Deng Zhuoxiang (76’ 4-Ai Zhibo)、8-Liu Jianye、24-Ji Xiang；20-Sun Ke、10-Dejan Damjanovic.
Guangzhou Evergrande (4-3-3): 19-Zeng Cheng；5-Zhang Linpeng、2-Mei Fang (80’ 4-Zhao Peng)、28-Kim Young-Gwon、33-Rong Hao (65’ 32-Sun Xiang)；10-Zheng Zhi、16-Huang Bowen、8-Rene Junior；23-Alessandro Diamanti、9-Elkeson、29-Gao Lin (72’ 18-Dong Xuesheng).