After a string of subdued performances, Guangzhou returned to their high-scoring ways against Dalian Aerbin, though the result itself was in the balance right up until injury time. Elkeson was instrumental, scoring two and forcing the save that led to another, but Yu Hanchao also sparkled with a classy brace of his own.
CHINESE SUPER LEAGUE ROUND 5
Guangzhou Evergrande 4
Kim Young-Gwon 13′, Elkeson 34′, 90+3′, Dong Xuesheng 79′
Dalian Aerbin 2
Yu Hanchao 3′, 69’
The first came in just the third minute, as Yu partnered with Banko to dance through the right side of the home defence. The finish was elegant, but the ease with which Zhang Linpeng and Mei Fang’s unit was taken apart seemed to indicate the Chinese champions’ recent malaise wasn’t finished.
Indeed with Zheng Zhi and Feng Xiaoting in the treatment room the rearguard had a slightly unfamiliar look to it, as local youngster Liao Lisheng and injury returnee Zhao Xuri attempted to shield a backline that has often looked unfocused in this early part of the season.
To home fans’ relief, the other cheek was not turned. Ten minutes of determined pressure bore fruit when Kim Young-Gwon ended a run of three corners by latching onto a Lü Peng miskick and somehow firing low through a cluster of seven Dalian players for his first goal of the year.
The momentum was kept up; Zhang tried to amend for his earlier errors (three times he could have blocked that ball) with a rapid-fire pair of near-misses, and Muriqui might have done better with the rebound after a first effort on the break was blocked by Zhang Chong.
There was a short lull that mostly consisted of watching Diamanti glory-hunt, before Elkeson took advantage of his teammates’ wall blocking a direct free kick. Zhao Honglüe was holding the Dalian fort, but his control let him down when the ball came back to him; Muriqui intercepted and Elkeson swept up, racing down the pitch and holding off Lü to direct a precision strike into the far corner.
With half-time approaching a curler from Diamanti just missed the top-left junction before the Italian was taken off for Huang Bowen, apparently as a precautionary measure after a knock. Things picked up where they had left off when play resumed, and the home side were looking quite comfortable when ex-Aerbin benchwarmer Dong Xuesheng came on for Muriqui just after the hour.
No one could have anticipated what happened next as the game entered its final quarter. Yu Hanchao picked up the ball close to his own side’s box and decided to take on the opposition single-handed, riding two tackles and running the length of the pitch (with Gao Lin in pursuit) to score a sensational equaliser from the edge of the area. Questions could be asked about the amount of room he was given (again up the left) and the positioning of the keeper, but it was an incredible solo effort.
His loss to injury in the 78th minute was a blow to his side, and sure enough they fell behind again a minute later, Elkeson’s powerful downward header from a corner blocked out only as far as Mr. Point-to-Prove, who finished emphatically from a tight angle. There was no pretense at respect for the old employers from Dong, who celebrated wildly his second goal at Tianhe (equalling his season total in both years at Aerbin).
Club top scorer Bruno Meneghel had faced Evergrande three times before this fixture as a Qingdao Jonoon player and scored each time, so Cantonese hearts were in mouths when his beautifully struck free kick from the D curled towards the top left corner just at the end of normal time. The Brazilian seemed the most stunned when it narrowly missed the target, and there was still time for his compatriot Elkeson to break forward and take the ball round Zhang to seal the victory.
The win puts Evergrande top of the CSL table with five games gone, though Shandong Luneng could overtake them if they beat Jiangsu Sainty in Nanjing this Wednesday evening. Guangzhou next play Tianjin Teda away in the CSL on Friday 11th April.
Guangzhou Evergrande: 19 Zeng Cheng; 32 Sun Xiang, 28 Kim Young-Gwon, 3 Mei Fang, 5 Zhang Linpeng; 2 Liao Lisheng, 37 Zhao Xuri, 23 Diamanti; 11 Muriqui, 29 Gao Lin, 9 Elkeson
Subs: 16 Huang Bowen (for 23 Diamanti 43’), 18 Dong Xuesheng (for 11 Muriqui 64’), 33 Rong Hao (for 37 Zhao Xuri 66’)
Dalian Aerbin: 1 Zhang Chong; 4 Li Xuepeng, 5 Jin Pengxiang, 3 Niklas Backman, 7 Zhao Honglüe; 29 Sun Bo, 22 Yu Dabao, 8 Lü Peng, 20 Yu Hanchao; 9 Leon Banko, 11 Bruno Meneghel
Subs: 25 Nashat Akram (for 9 Leon Banko 46’), 12 Zhou Tong (for 20 Yu Hanchao 78’), 2 Yang Boyu (for 22 Yu Dabao ’84)