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New arrivals on target as Evergrande open with a win

CHINESE SUPER LEAGUE ROUND 1

Guangzhou Evergrande 3 

Renê Júnior 53′, Feng Renliang 62′, Dong Xuesheng 70′

Henan Jianye 0

Despite fielding a weakened line-up, Guangzhou Evergrande ran out comfortable winners over Henan Jianye in the second fixture of the 2014 China Super League. Last year’s China League One champions gave a good account of themselves, but both Evergrande debutantes scored as three second half goals secured the perfect start.

Li Shuai replaced Zeng Cheng in goal, due to the latter getting injured in training with the national squad. Feng Xiaoting also returned unable to play, although few were upset after his display against Iraq. With Brazilians Elkeson and Muriqui also sidelined, recent purchase Dong Xuesheng made an unexpected start alongside Gao Lin at the head of a 3-5-2 formation.

Renê Júnior also made his competitve debut for Evergrande, partnering youngster Liao Lisheng in midfield, with Alessandro Diamanti in front and Zheng Zhi pushed further back into the heart of the Cantonese defence.

While the home side dominated much of the play in the first half, Henan were well able to stand their ground. Strangely the referee saw fit to book Kim Young-Gwon and Zhang Linpeng for first-half infractions, but no Henan players saw yellow for any of their more frequent fouls until an hour had passed.

They played well too though, having almost as many good chances as their hosts and pressing high and tight when they were without the ball. Despite clever play from Diamanti both Guangzhou forwards repeatedly found themselves getting caught offside; the timing of the South Americans was sorely missed.

Indeed when the opener came it was from the other Brazlian in the squad. Renê showed great control to hold and move possession out to the left, and then picked the ball up from Gao Lin, surged into the box holding off Zhang Lu, and fired low past Zhao Yajun. He seemed quite overcome in his celebration.

Lippi had switched to four at the back at half-time, replacing Liao with Huang Bowen and, more suprisingly, Rong Hao with Feng Renliang. Feng did make some atonement for last season’s poor displays just after the hour, finally opening his Evergrande account in his thirteenth appearance by bravely forcing a Huang Bowen corner past a flurry of defenders.

Dong Xuesheng opened his Guangzhou Evergrande account.

Dong Xuesheng opened his Guangzhou Evergrande account.

Diamanti departed shortly afterwards, with Mei Fang replacing him. Despite usually featuring in central defence in pre-season, he pushed Zhang left here to take up his usual right-back position and impressed greatly with both his defensive qualities and his eye for a run.

Gao Lin was again the provider for the third, unselfishly squaring a Sun Xiang long ball for Dong to fire into an empty net. The Dalian Aerbin benchwarmer’s arrival on transfer deadline day had been greeted with some bemusement, but he put in a strong display here and deserved his goal.

Henan could have pulled one back, with winter signings Rafael Marques and substitute Ryan Johnson looking dangerous and forcing Li into a few saves, but much of the fight seemed to go out of them after Renê’s moment of inspiration.

Evergrande now travel to Japan for their Asian Champion’s League group game against Yokohama F-Marinos on Wednesday March 12th at 18:30 CST.

Guangzhou Evergrande: 19 Zeng Cheng; 28 Kim Young-Gwon, 10 Zheng Zhi, 5 Zhang Linpeng; 32 Sun Xiang, 33 Rong Hao; 8 Renê Júnior, 2 Liao Lisheng, 23 Diamanti; 29 Gao Lin, 18 Dong Xuesheng.
Subs: 16 Huang Bowen (for 2 Liao Lisheng 46’), 14 Feng Renliang (for 33 Rong Hao 46’), 3 Mei Fang (for 23 Diamanti 64’)

Henan Jianye: 1 Zhao Yajun; 6 Tan Wangsong, 3 Gibril Sankoh, 17 Lee Ji-Nam, 8 Zhang Lu; 19 Yin Hongbo, 4 Mirahmetjan Muzepper, 14 Huang Xiyang, 18 Xu Yang; 11 Nando Rafael, 20 Rafael Marques
Subs: 22 Zhu Yifan (for 4 Mirahmetjan Muzepper 64’), 9 Johnson (for 3 Gibril Sankoh 73’), 5 Gu Cao (for 18 Xu Yang 80’)

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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