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Yuexiushan News: Guangzhou R&F back in the ACL race?

Guangzhou R&F have won four from four by scoring four (or more) and now sit fourth in the CSL. The Cantonese will make their second shortest away trip of the season, a mere 900km one way, to face Guizhou Zhicheng on Sunday.

Where are they now?

It’s been an eventful two years since Yuexiushan News 

last went to press.  Guangzhou R&F have played in the ACL group stage, narrowly escaped relegation, changed manager twice, had three different ‘home’ stadiums, and changed the colour of Yuexiushan twice. YNP’s favourite punchbag Zhang Yuan has moved down to China League One and scored from inside his own half. Another who generated column inches for YNP, Ken Ilsø Larsen, is not so much facilitating plays from midfield as banging in the goals in the Malaysian Super League these days. Former manager Sven-Göran Eriksson was lured away by the money of Shanghai SIPG and was then sacked from his next job at Shenzhen by poem. Rumours that this had anything to do with Zhang Yuan’s presence in the Shenzhen squad are unconfirmed.

It’s not all change though as Cheng Yuelei, Tang Miao, Jiang Zhipeng and Lu Lin remain first team regulars. Talking of which…

 Guangzhou R&F 4 – 1 Liaoning

Without key players Renatinho (suspended), Urso (injured) and Xiao Zhi (fever) Dragan Stojković was forced to shuffle his pack for Liaoning’s visit. Zhang Gong made his first start of the season in midfield alongside Li Tixiang with Zeng Chao starting up top. Mid-season replacement for Jang Hyun-Soo, centre back Sölvi Ottesen, made his second start of the season.

Thankfully for Ottesen this game was much better than his debut in Tianjin when he was involved in both of Quanjian’s goals. The Icelander’s despairing slide diverted the ball past Cheng Yuelei into his own net for the opener, and he was then involved in a defensive mix up with Tang Miao as Quanjian grabbed a last minute winner.

Ottesen scored inside the first 10 minutes of his Yuexiushan debut though and the rest of the R&F side never looked back. Zahavi continued his quest for the CSL golden boot by using his head. The Israeli scored the aerial equivalent of two tap-ins to take his tally to 22 for the season. In between these, Tang Miao – recovered from a fever which kept him out of the Canton derby cup debacle – scored with a low shot from the edge of the area. All three R&F subs were U23 players which must set, or at least equal, the CSL record. Equally pleasingly, the trio – Ye Chugui, Mai Jiajian and Ma Junliang – are all Cantonese.

Guangzhou R&F 4 – 2 Jiangsu

After Jiangsu finally began to turn their season around, Fabio Capello produced a quote in a pre-match press conference which he was to regret by the final whistle on Wednesday night. “The difficult time [for Jiangsu] has passed” he said. The scoreline suggests he was wrong but the number of chances Jiangsu created suggests otherwise, as did Martinez’s brilliant opening goal. R&F had missed a few chances of their own before local hero Lu Lin grabbed an equaliser on the stroke of half time.

R&F continued to ride their luck in the second half and moved ahead with goals from two players who hadn’t been involved against Liaoning. Xiao Zhi headed the first after yet another Tang Miao assist, before Renatinho wrapped up the scoring for the hosts. In between these Zahavi also added his name to the scoresheet by proving that whatever Martinez could do, he could do too with a fine strike from the edge of the box. Ottesen was doing his best Terry Butcher impression with his head bandaged but Martinez had the last laugh when he raced past Ottesen onto a punt upfield to score a consolation for Jiangsu.

Taking stock

After an incredible run, R&F have hauled themselves up into fourth place and back into contention for an ACL spot. With Tianjin Quanjian, Shandong, Hebei and Beijing also in the hunt, R&F will have to maintain their form until the end of the season. In R&F’s favour is that they still have to play the latter three teams before the end of the season so R&F’s destiny is in their own hands. Set against this, R&F collected just two points from the first set of fixtures against these three earlier in the year. By mid-September we’ll have a much better idea of how realistic Guangzhou R&F’s attempt to play in the ACL for the second time is.

Preview v Guizhou Zhicheng

Next up for Guangzhou R&F is a trip to play mid table Guizhou. R&F will have to win this if they are to stay in the hunt for ACL qualification going into their run of games against the other hopefuls. Guizhou will be no pushovers though as they come into the game on the back of a win against Chongqing and a midweek 3-0 win against Shenhua, albeit that two of their goals came in injury time.

There is another reason for R&F to worry. Guizhou are the reason Yuexiushan has gone gold. Guizhou beat R&F in the Cantonese club’s first game at what was then the all blue Yuexiushan back in April. This marked the end of R&F’s good start to the season and eventually led to the club repainting Yuexiushan.

R&F are the form team in the CSL though and Tang Miao will take a lot of stick from his twin brother, Guizhou’s Tang Xin, if the Cantonese do not come out on top.

Preview v Shandong Luneng

Following the Guizhou game, R&F will return to Guangzhou to play Shandong Luneng the following weekend. The Jinan side have historically been one of R&F’s bogey teams and the Cantonese have not beaten them in Guangzhou since 2012. As this game is a great chance for either of these sides to try and knock the other out of the ACL race, this is sure to be a tense encounter. Given their historical dominance and R&F’s leaky defence – the Cantonese have not kept a clean sheet for 10 CSL games – Shandong may well fancy their chances.

Donald began following Guangzhou R&F having moved to China in the same year that R&F moved to Guangzhou. The club's first foreign season ticket holder, Donald was able to watch three seasons at Yuexiushan before returning to the UK.

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