With two first choice players and their manager suspended, Guangzhou R&F went down fighting against Tianjin Quanjian. Helped by a red card for for Quanjian, R&F pushed their hosts all the way but came up short.
In a relatively quiet transfer window by recent CSL standards, R&F made two noteworthy signings. Experienced Serbian centre back Duško Tošić arrived from Beşiktaş where he won two league titles in three years. The Cantonese have one of the leakiest defences in the CSL and Tošić clearly won’t be able to transform it single handily, but hopefully he’ll do better than Sölvi Ottesen who was brought in to do an identical job this time last year. With a hectic schedule coming up over the next month, to say nothing of the high temperatures and long distance travel, Dragan Stojković will have to be selective in how often he uses the 33 year old Tošić. Especially as the Serbian arrived in Guangzhou with hardly a break after playing in the World Cup.
The other noteworthy signing is Hong Konger Tan Chun-lok. One of Hong Kong’s most promising youngsters, the 22 year old already has 14 caps for the national side. Tan went with R&F on their training trip to California over the break and the R&F hierarchy clearly liked what they saw. However, the rumours are that Tan will be loaned out to R&F’s Hong Kong club. Perhaps partly because as a non-mainland Chinese Tan won’t count towards the mandatory CSL U23 quota.
R&F at the World Cup
As well as Tošić, a couple of ex-R&F men also appeared in Russia. Midfielder Gustav Svensson – now playing in the MLS – started Sweden’s last 16 win against Switzerland, but didn’t appear in the quarter final against England. Jang Hyun-Soo – a victim of the CFA’s removal of the +1 Asian space – started all three of South Korea’s games, including the memorable win over Germany where Guangzhou Evergrande’s Kim Young-gwon scored in extra time. Ken Ilsø wasn’t in Denmark’s squad but the ex-R&F player has moved to Australia where he’ll be looking to score and also facilitate goals from midfield.
Tianjin Quanjian 2 – 1 Guangzhou R&F
Forward Xiao Zhi, defender Li Tixiang and manager Stojković were all suspended after the 1-1 draw with Henan immediately before the World Cup break. Xiao went from hero to zero as he picked up a second yellow for taking his shirt off to celebrate the opening goal, Li got a VAR assisted straight red, and Stojković’s thumbs down gesture got him banned as well.
Urso was left out for Tošić to make his debut against Quanjian, Renatinho was back from injury and Zahavi completed the foreign trio. Chang Feiya came in for Xiao Zhi in attack.
Quanjian raced into a 2-0 lead with new signing Tošić getting off to a bad start by being one of the players at fault for both goals. However, R&F’s defensive line for the first goal had more resemblance to a wavy squiggle than anything you’d draw with a ruler so Tošić shouldn’t take all the blame.
R&F had created chances in the first half and Zhao Xuri’s red just before half time gave them a numerical advantage over Quanjian for the final 45 minutes. Despite dominating possession, R&F couldn’t seem to get a shot or header on target though. Zahavi somehow scored from a freekick rebound late on to give R&F hope, but Tang Miao and Tošić both missed chances for a stoppage time equaliser.
Guangzhou R&F host Guizhou on Sunday before travelling to Hebei the following weekend. R&F need a win to keep in touch with the pack of teams bunched towards the top of the CSL so will be looking to add to Guizhou’s Cantonese pain after their 4-0 thumping by Evergrande on Wednesday.
Sandwiched in between the Guizhou and Hebei games is the second leg of the CFA Cup quarter final against Jiangsu. The first leg finished 0-0 so despite Jiangsu already registering a CSL win at Yuexiushan earlier this year, R&F have a great chance to make the Cup semi-finals for the second time in three years.