Brazil midfielder Paulinho struck twice to help Guangzhou Evergrande to victory in their CSL opener with rivals Beijing Guoan in a match which will be remembered for its ill-tempered nature and woeful refereeing.
CHINESE SUPER LEAGUE 2017
Guangzhou Evergrande 2
Paulinho 19′, 87′
Beijing Guoan 1
Yilmaz 38′ (pen)
Over the course of 90 minutes, referee Hei XIaoxu showed 13 yellow cards and two reds after seemingly losing control of the encounter in the first half.
Paulinho had opened the scoring for Evergrande after 19 minutes, with the home side well on top in the early stages. The Brazilian headed home Huang Bowen’s in-swinging free-kick, albeit replays later showed he may have been offside when the ball was played.
Evergrande appeared comfortable at that stage, but received a shock to the system when Renato Augusto was awarded a penalty after a tackle by defender Zhang Linpeng—on this occasion replays showed a slight touch on the ball.
Guoan were not to worry, though, and Burak Yilmaz stood up to open his account for the 2017 season with a fine penalty low to the keeper’s left.
The penalty call was the catalyst for a fiercely contested contest with chances at both end, Guoan striking the bar through Renato Augusto from range before the break.
However the game swung firmly in Evergrande’s direction after 66 minutes when full-back Zhao Hejing was shown a straight red card for a lunge on Gao Lin. With a man’s advantage, the Cantonese side threw men forward, but Zhang Xizhe had the best chance for the visitors with his low strike well saved by goalkeeper Zeng Cheng.
#U23starter Evergrande's Chen Zepeng and Guoan's Tang Shi both played over 70mins in such an intense game. Good for their development.
— Yixin Li (@FRsoccerYixin) March 5, 2017
At the other end Evergrande were twice denied what appeared like strong shouts for a penalty, while the sides were soon level in number when Evergrande captain Zheng Zhi was dismissed for a second yellow after a seemingly innocuous coming together with Yilmaz. By this point, Tianhe Stadium was incandescent with rage.
But the mood of the home fans was brightened just minutes from the end when Paulinho turned home his second to settle a fiercely contested league opener, leaving both managers to share a joke over the standard of officiating at full-time.
For Guoan, there were numerous positives from the encounter, including the performance of Under-23 winger Tang Shi. Evergrande will just be glad to have started the season with three points as rivals Hebei CFFC and Jiangsu Suning slipped up.