A last minute equaliser from Chongqing denied the Cantonese a winning start to their CSL campaign.
At a preseason dinner last week Zhang Sheng, the co-chairman of R&F Group and the chairman of Guangzhou R&F Football Club, announced the target of a top four finish. This has since been muddied by other statements from R&F that set a target of ACL qualification. Confusingly, meeting Zhang’s target of 4th doesn’t necessarily mean ACL football next season, whilst a CFA Cup win would guarantee ACL qualification without needing to finish fourth. Hopefully Stojković is clearer on what he is expected to achieve.
Late transfer moves
The club made late moves in the transfer window, including finally signing some defenders. The latest arrivals appear to be about adding depth to the squad rather than strengthening the first XI though:
- Left back Zou Zheng moving from Evergrande on a three year deal is the potential exception to this. The 31 year old won the ACL and three caps for China at the start of his time at Tianhe and now hopes to reinvigorate his career at Yuexiushan. Left back was a problem position for R&F last season as Ding Haifeng never really impressed, Zhang Chenlong played there for a spell but Lu Lin also spent a lot of time playing out of position there. Will Zou be the answer?
- Centre back Jin Pengxiang arrives on a one year loan from Beijing Guoan. Jin’s time at Gongti wasn’t a success and the 29 year old hasn’t made more than 15 league appearances in a season since 2014 when he was at Dalian.
- U23 defender Li Long was picked up from the now defunct Yanbian Funde
- 19 year old goalkeeper Han Jiaqi arrives on a five year deal. Han has been picked by the Chinese U17 and U19 teams so could be one to watch for the future. He spent the past six months or so in the Aves youth set-up in Portugal
- In the other direction, Chang Feiya has moved to Wuhan Zall on a year long loan. Chang continued to show signs of potential last year but now seems to be behind new arrival Jin Bo as well as the returning Ye Chugui in the pecking order.
- Renatinho’s move to Tianjin Tianhai was confirmed as a loan
Chongqing Lifan 2 – 2 Guangzhou R&F
Stojković gave Moussa Dembele, Dia Saba, Fan Yunlong and Gui Hong their debuts. They fitted right in. This was classic R&F football – making plenty of chances and giving them away too. The Cantonese had already had a couple of warnings before Chongqing’s opener from the spot. Cheng Yuelei guessed the right way but Alan Kardec’s penalty was right in the corner.
The Cantonese had opportunities in the first half but Stojković felt more was needed so changed things after the break. Attacking Ye Chugui, back from his loan to Shenzhen last year, replaced U23 centre back Huang Zhengyu. Ye had an instant impact. Tang Miao intercepted a pass, Saba’s shot was saved and Ye was there to put in the rebound.
R&F’s second goal also came from winning the ball back on the edge of the Chongqing box. Zahavi passed to Tang and the Israeli timed his run beautifully to head Tang’s cross in and put R&F in front.
Few of his teammates would have been happier than Dia Saba. Saba’s performance showed that he is many things but, judging on Saturday alone, clinical isn’t one of them. He’d already failed to convert a couple of chances before blowing a one-on-one which would’ve sealed victory for R&F.
Instead Chongqing piled on the pressure, often taking the aerial route as time ticked down. With the Cantonese defence looking vulnerable, the equaliser arrived in injury time. Kardec beat Ding Haifeng in the air and the Brazilian’s header went in of Fan Yunlong’s face. Honours even after a game that wasn’t short of goal mouth action.
Having older players in the reserve team is not that unusual in China, but R&F’s line-up against the Chongqing reserves still deserves mention. Dusko Tosic, Lu Lin and Chen Zhizhao all started the game. Have the new arrivals pushed Lu and Chen down the Yuexiushan pecking order? Or did they just need an easier game before being launched into the CSL fray? New keeper Han also started and kept a clean sheet in a 2-0 win.
R&F’s home opener is against Dalian on Saturday evening. Carrasco’s late equaliser salvaged a point for Dalian away at Henan in their opening game. Coincidentally R&F’s first home game of 2018 was a 2-0 win against Dalian. Will history repeat itself?