3-0 down away to Shandong with twelve minutes left, Guangzhou R&F pulled off their greatest comeback of the season to earn a draw and ensure that a win against Harbin on Sunday will be enough to clinch third place and ACL qualification.
Not for the faint hearted
Sunday evening looked to be turning into a case of “champions league, you’re having a laugh” as R&F fell 3-0 behind to their nearest challengers Shandong, who also had two goals disallowed for marginal offside calls, before the blue and whites staged a miraculous recovery. Shandong’s defence put in an R&F-esque performance in the closing minutes as they allowed two free headers inside the box, the latter falling to South Korean centre back Jang Hyun-Soo who scored the equaliser in the 96th minute. As ’s handy guide reveals, if R&F beat Harbin or Shandong fail to win against Guizhou then the blue and whites will qualify for the ACL.
Guangzhou R&F Away From Home
2012 and 2013 season together : 21 points
(including five wins)
2014 season to date: 25 points
(including seven wins)
Shanghai Shenhua may have been last season’s comeback kings but this season the title belongs to Guangzhou R&F who have now come from behind six times to take at least a share of the points and but for Rene Junior’s late strike in the Canton derby the number would be seven. Whilst this shows that the squad has a great spirit and attitude, Sven would no doubt prefer it if this was shown from the kick-off instead of only emerging after his side had dug themselves into a hole.
Sven to Shanghai?
According to reports, Sven may be swapping Guangzhou for Shanghai East Asia after the season ends. This isn’t the first time Sven has been linked with a move away from R&F but even if this is just another fake sheik moment, Yuexiushan News is still concerned that Sven would consider moving from a team with an all but guaranteed ACL place to a team without.
R&F were tipped to challenge for an ACL place at the beginning of the season but there were many who felt that the Cantonese would yet again fall just short and the latter group appeared to have it right after R&F got off a slow start with two draws in their opening games. The blue and whites improved though and now just have to beat already relegated Harbin to qualify for the ACL for the first time. R&F have pumped a lot of money into the club both on the field, in the form of many new players, off the field, with a new academy, and on the field itself, redeveloping Yuexiushan Stadium, and a little over three years since the club were moved from Shenzhen the investment is on the verge of paying off.
Support your local team
Results last weekend mean Guangdong Sunray Cave are now certain of their place in China League 1 next season and can look forward to welcoming the visit of Harbin. Their remaining home match is a week on Saturday at Huangpu Stadium.
The final issue facing the blue and whites is how to fill the stands at Yuexiushan. As is the case with many domestic football and basketball sides in China, average attendances are low. R&F’s owners will have been looking enviously at fans of Sunday’s opponent Harbin who yet again turned out in huge numbers to give an emotional send-off to their team last weekend. How many of Guangzhou’s roughly 14 million population will be at Yuexiushan for R&F’s final home game of the season? Certainly less than Harbin’s 26,000 average crowd.
However, after a 1-1 draw with Dalian last weekend, the fat lady has already called time on Harbin and their fans’ spell in the CSL and she is surely warming up to serenade R&F’s move into continental competition next year. With Evergrande hosting Beijing at Tianhe, this weekend could well see both the blue and red halves of Guangzhou celebrating.
Guangzhou R&F v Harbin Yiteng is on Sunday at Yuexiushan Stadium. Click here for a guide to attending R&F matches.