Guangzhou Evergrande made it six consecutive Chinese Super League wins with a 2-1 defeat of Jiangsu Sunning.
On a rain-soaked pitch, the home side played with swagger and verve such that last season’s runners up frequently seemed stretched to the point of snapping and were it not for the intervention of the post and Gao Lin’s wastefulness in front of goal this might have been a thumping defeat for Jiangsu.
CHINESE SUPER LEAGUE
Guangzhou Evergrande 2
Alan 12, 42
Jiangsu Suning 1
Conversely, it might be said that Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side waltzed the line between in game flair and arrogant showboating because the inability to score a third goal nearly cost the league leaders following the dismissal of Li Xuepeng with 10 minutes and a hefty dosage of injury time remaining.
As it panned out, Scolari can reflect on his side’s excellent defensive shape, Ricardo Goulart playing with a measured patience that often goes unnoticed, and the fortune of facing a Jiangsu side that frequently looked bereft in the creativity department.
Alan gave Guangzhou the lead after 12 minutes with a goal that was copy pasted from the training ground. If the opening exchanges were riddled with slips, miscontrols, and passes skidding out of reach, the Brazilian’s effort was the antonym; a thing of timing and precision with Paulinho’s flick-header finding his onrushing compatriot who applied an even defter touch beyond goalkeeper Zhang Sipeng.
Prior to the intervention Jiangsu had dominated possession but seemed almost coyly unwilling to take the game to Guangzhou. Once behind, however, Choi Yong-soo’s team dropped desperately deep offering gaping pockets of space for the marauding Paulinho and Goulart to occupy.
There had been rumors that Hong Jeong-ho, the Nanjing-based side’s South Korean defender, would return to the side following injury and his absence continues to be felt amid Zhou Yun’s frequently poorly timed tackles and a general lack of defensive cohesion.
Indeed, when Alan found the time and space to dispatch an uncleared cross and double his tally on the 42nd minute, it seemed the sort of goal Hong might have stopped. At this point the evening might have become a long and unforgiving one for Choi and co.
As the second half got underway, Scolari could be seen prowling his touchline continually berating his players in a manner that belied the seemingly comfortable advantage Guangzhou was enjoying over its deflated opposition. Perhaps the former Chelsea manager could smell his team’s complacency lingering amid the damp South China air because for all the flicks, stepovers, and cute passing the home side couldn’t find a third goal.
Gao Lin, who tipped the side’s 4-2-3-1, went close on several occasions with smart runs in behind an all too often flat footed Zhang Xiaobin, most notably hitting the post on the 50th minute, but failed to add to his solitary two goals this season.
Xie Pengfei enlivened what had become a starkly one-sided encounter with an opportunistic goal on 55 minutes. Jiangsu’s heroic assist maker from the win over Shandong Luneng turned goal scorer here as Ji Xiang laid the ball off to the midfielder outside the area and Zeng Cheng failed to stop his low, bending shot.
The goal offered Jiangsu hope on the counter attack, however Alex Teixeira seemed uncharacteristically sluggish and Roger Martinez more interested in picking fights with red shirted opponents than figuring out a way to open his goal scoring account for the season.
Martinez’s antics eventually proved fruitful when he managed to embroil Li, his opposing defender, into a spot of foolish rough and tumble which resulted in the Guangzhou player’s second yellow card.
Following last season’s CFA Cup final, the two sides have developed something resembling bad blood, a point touched upon by Choi in the pregame press conference, though truthfully it doesn’t take much to have a vendetta against a side with the supreme success of Guangzhou. This antagonism certainly showed in the dwindling stages of the contest when the referee lost complete control of proceedings amid late tackles, histrionics, and a melee that lasted well over five minutes.
Truthfully, it was miraculous that Jiangsu was still within touching distance of Guangzhou by this late stage in the game and despite Tao Yuan’s brightness on the right hand side and a couple of half chances from set pieces, the away side’s pressure amounted to little and the score line ultimately flattered Choi’s men.