After three games the Cantonese have scored eight, conceded nine and picked up two points.
The story so far
Giving up a last minute equaliser on opening day in Chongqing. Scoring a late equaliser at home the Dalian to following week. Scoring a late equaliser before conceding an even later winner away at Tianjin. Notice a pattern?
After a couple of games Guangzhou R&F had let in five goals but had also created chances to score plenty more than the five they’d managed themselves. Zahavi had more shots on his own than all of Dalian put together in the 3-3 draw in week two.
Tianjin TEDA 4 – 3 Guangzhou R&F
The 4-3 at Tianjin is harder to judge. Going 2-0 down after picking a foreign centre back especially to strengthen the defence wasn’t a good look. Nor was the one Lu Lin gave the referee that appeared to get him sent off. 10 men pulling it back to 3-3 with Dembele, Zahavi and the Tang ‘the assist king’ Miao all playing their part was much better.
There was a final twist though. Ding Haifeng’s clearing header could have been better directed, but he also had a right to expect somebody to be within 10 yards of Acheampong. Nobody was. The Ghanaian took full advantage as he curled in a great strike in a game which was full of good goals.
The same old question
Stojković said it himself in the press conference after the game: “we always talk about defensive problems but now we must act.” With 61 goals conceded last year and 9 goals already conceded this season it is at least nice to know that everybody is clear about the problem. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon, whether R&F play with three or four at the back. This year there is a partial excuse that the new players have to get to know each other, although this is more relevant to the midfield than defence with Zou Zheng still injured and Tosic no longer a new face.
Some teams aim to pick up points by conceding fewer goals than the opposition. Some by aiming to score more goals than the opposition. The Cantonese definitely fall into the latter category. Whilst the style of play is exciting to watch, there is a sense that it isn’t just Stojković fed up with the defensive lapses.
The first Canton derby of the season is at Tianhe on Saturday night. Dia Saba should be fit for selection after being given the time to get over the jet lag of coming back from European qualifiers that Zahavi was denied. Xiao Zhi may also be ready to make his first appearance of 2019, and if so will be a straight swap for Gui Hong. Chen Zhizhao too has an opportunity to be involved for the first time this year thanks to Lu Lin’s red card. Fan Yunlong and Huang Zhengyu – especially after his U23 competition Ma Junliang was hauled off in the first half in Tianjin – will also be looking to reclaim their starting spots.
On the other side of the city, Cannavaro has had a rough couple of weeks with the ACL defeat to Daegu followed by the China Cup. However, Evergrande – despite their self-imposed two foreigner limit – have three wins from three in the CSL, the latest 1-0 away at Dalian.
R&F have the CSL’s best record against Evergrande. Since their promotion in 2012, R&F have seven wins in 16 league games, plus another in the CFA Cup. Winning at Tianhe hasn’t been a problem either, as last year’s 5-4 showed. Whilst the 7-2 hammering in the CFA Cup the year before was excessive, goals have not been a rare commodity in recent Canton derbies – perhaps not coincidentally aligned with Stojković’s time at Yuexiushan. R&F’s attack has been in explosive form already this season, whilst Talisca, Paulinho and co will be rubbing their hands at the sight of the R&F defence.
In other words, everything is beautifully set up for a boring 0-0 draw.