Sunday afternoon’s 3-2 win over Tianjin TEDA was Guangzhou R&F’s seventh at the repainted Yuexiushan. Coupled with results elsewhere, the win means that the Cantonese still retain hopes of playing in the ACL next season.
Guangzhou R&F 3 – 2 Henan Jianye
Henan became Guangzhou R&F’s sixth victim at Yuexiushan since the August repainting. On a wet and windy night, R&F moved into a two goal lead before their relatively weak centre midfield almost cost them. With Junior Urso injured, Lu Lin and Chen Zhizhao were playing in front of the back three but neither have an imposing physical presence. Henan fought back into the game before a horrible error by U23 centre back Huang Zhengyu allowed them to pull level. The Cantonese didn’t panic though, stuck to their passing game, and were rewarded when Renatinho fired in a stoppage time winner.
Shanghai SIPG 1 – 2 Guangzhou R&F
R&F had only won away twice all season and Shanghai Stadium did not seem to be the place to alter that record, even after SIPG’s exploits in the ACL semi in midweek. However, a Jiang Jihong goal after just four minutes set the tone for the game. On his 200th CSL appearance, Cheng Yuelei first gave away a penalty before redeeming himself by saving Hulk’s effort from the spot. Zahavi then doubled R&F’s lead after the break as the Israeli continued his quest for the golden boot and single CSL season scoring record. Hulk refused to be kept off the scoresheet though as he made it 1-2 after an hour but his teammates couldn’t find an equaliser. R&F were jubilant at the final whistle, as was the red half of Guangzhou as the result meant Evergrande claimed their seventh successive CSL title.
Guangzhou R&F 3 – 2 Tianjin TEDA
The forgotten foreigner at R&F for most of the year, Aussie international Apostolos Giannou got two decisive goals to set up the win in R&F’s final home game of 2017. Renatinho had opened the scoring from a freekick just after half-time before Acheampong equalised for Tianjin. An injury to Xiao Zhi saw Giannou’s introduction and the striker scored twice in five minutes to secure all three points. Nemanja Gudelj’s 83rd minute goal for Tianjin ensured a nervous ending at Yuexiushan though.
With three wins from three, October has been good to Guangzhou R&F. However, the Cantonese now leave the home comforts of Yuexiushan knowing that they must win away if they are to have any chance of qualifying for the ACL.
R&F are fighting with Tianjin Quanjian and Hebei for the final ACL spots. However, R&F are behind both on points so need to win, whilst hoping that other results go their way. With Quanjian coming to Guangzhou to play champions Evergrande and Hebei travelling to sixth place Shandong, there is a chance that this could happen. If:
- R&F win and Quanjian lose – Guangzhou R&F will be fourth regardless of the Hebei score (either behind Hebei on points, or behind on head-to-head record)
- R&F win, Quanjian draw and Hebei draw or win – Guangzhou R&F will be fourth (on head-to-head record against Quanjian)
- R&F win, Quanjian draw and Hebei lose – Guangzhou R&F will be fifth (on ‘mini league’ of all games played between the three clubs)
Even if R&F finish fourth, this will still not guarantee them ACL football in 2018. For that to happen, Shanghai SIPG must beat city rivals Shenhua in the CFA Cup final. If Shenhua win the Cup then they will take the final ACL spot and ruin the dreams of one of R&F, Hebei, and Tianjin Quanjian.
Guangzhou R&F v Chaongqing Lifan
Guangzhou R&F must win. It is as simple as that. If the Cantonese can’t, there is no chance that they will be playing in the ACL next season. R&F may have a poor away record (only three away wins in 2017) but will be facing a Chongqing side with nothing to play for. Chongqing have a guaranteed tenth place finish and haven’t won since early September. It is a cliche to say that there are no easy games, but some games are easier than others and – YN may regret saying this come 5pm on Saturday – this is one of them. A fired up Guangzhou R&F should be too good for Chongqing. Whether city neighbours Evergrande will do them a favour by beating Tianjin Quanjian is another question.
In the end, R&F can only win and hope. Just like they have been doing since their incredible home form started in mid-August. Everyone in blue and white will have their fingers crossed come Saturday afternoon.