Guangzhou R&F made it two wins from two by beating CSL newboys Dalian Yifang 2-0 on Sunday. Second half goals from Chen Zhizhao and Eran Zahavi earned the Cantonese their first home win of the season.
Guangzhou R&F 2 – 0 Dalian Yifang
After Dalian were thrashed 8-0 in Shanghai by SIPG, Ma Lin’s men can’t have been looking forward to their trip to Guangzhou. Dragan Stojković welcomed them by sending out the same line-up that put five past Evergrande in the Canton derby. Huang Zhengyu continued as the lone starting U23, with hat-trick hero Zahavi, Junior Urso and Renatinho all starting. It was R&F keeper Cheng Yuelei who grabbed the first half headlines by making some important saves though. He was called on again in the second half as Carrasco and Gaitan showed that they will be a handful for CSL defences.
Thankfully by that point R&F had the lead. Chen’s volley mid way through the second half was followed shortly afterwards by a curling freekick from R&F’s magnificent seven Eran Zahavi to give the hosts a 2-0 cushion. It would have been 3-0 but for VAR. A late breakaway goal was correctly cancelled out after Renatinho overran Urso and was caught offside by the video replays.
Stojković again left his U23 subs late. Ma Junliang got three minutes plus extra time, whilst Guangzhou born Li Yuyang made his 2018 debut in stoppage time. Surprisingly, there was no place for U23 Cai Haojian this week – perhaps he did something wrong in the warm down after his three minute cameo appearance last week? A more likely reason is that Cai failed to impress in the reserve fixture against Evergrande the day after the senior derby.
A 2-0 victory over Dalian wasn’t the comprehensive scoreline many wanted, but it is hard to argue with three points and a clean sheet. Especially when it leaves R&F joint top of the table.
Stojković celebrated his birthday with a derby win over Evergrande, and midfielder Urso celebrated his by beating Dalian. In between, captain Yi Teng became a father on Thursday but still played 90 minutes at the weekend.
Congratulations also go to Xiao Zhi for keeping his place in the Chinese squad. The striker divides opinion on the national stage as he tends to play at the expense of Wu Lei, but Lippi certainly sees something to like about the man from Henan. With Jiang Zhipeng’s move to Hebei, Xiao is R&F’s only representative in the national squad.
Up next: Shanghai SIPG
Three CSL teams have two wins from two, and two of them will meet on Sunday when Shanghai SIPG are the first visitors to Yuexiushan in 2018. Controversy erupted in this game last year when Oscar used the ball as a weapon, sparking a melee which saw red cards, lengthy CFA punishment bingo bans, and worldwide attention. Oscar’s form this year suggests his petulance is unlikely to reappear on Sunday and the use of VAR makes it unlikely that such a situation would arise again. Just before the incident last year SIPG had been awarded a clearly offside goal which VAR would have ruled out this year.
The Oscar incident wasn’t the first bad-blood between the two clubs. Back in 2014, SIPG player Wu Yuyin conducted an unexpected and certainly unwanted mid-game testicular exam on Jiang Ning. The R&F winger reacted by kicking Wu, who was lying on the ground, in the head. Both got red cards.
Some R&F fans – YN included – have also not forgiven SIPG for what they did at the end of 2014. SIPG’s money lured manager Sven-Göran Eriksson and midfielder Davi to Shanghai which contributed – alongside a host of other factors – to the Cantonese almost being relegated in 2015.
Whilst it would be wrong to paint the game as a grudge match, nor is it just any other game. On top of the history, both teams have two wins from two in the CSL. R&F displayed their attacking credentials in the opening day Canton derby win, whilst SIPG have already qualified from their ACL group. Sunday gives the Shanghainese a chance to put down a marker in the CSL. With both teams stronger going forward than at the back, expect goals on Sunday.