A third of the way through the season and Guangzhou R&F are eighth in the CSL.
After ‘doing a Shenhua’ in the cup and then only managing one shot on target against Shanghai SIPG, early May was a struggle for R&F fans. The past two games have brought the first back-to-back wins of 2019 though. It also makes it three wins in a row at Yuexiushan. All of this has catapulted the Cantonese up to 8th in the tableh.
Tianjin Tianhai 1 – 2 Guangzhou R&F
Stojković shuffeled his foreigners round by brining Saba back into the side to add more of an attacking threat compared to Tosic. It worked. The other two foreigners combined for the opening goal though. Silky footwork from Dembele before a lovely chipped ball for Zahavi to back header into the net.
Yi Teng missed a clearance in the second half to allow Tianhai in for an equaliser. The Tianjin side then began to turn possession into chances and threatened to take the lead. Instead, Saba unleashed a rocket from 25 yards out to claim the win for R&F.
There was still time for Kevin Keegan fan Shen Xiangfu to open the latest bizzare chapter in the history of the U23 rule. With time running out, Shen brought U23 Zhen Ma on up front. This would be unremarkable but for Zhen being a keeper. Zhen then suffering the further indignity of being subbed off after just two minutes of outfield action.
Guangzhou R&F 3 – 1 Beijing Renhe
In a repeat of the last home game against Shenzhen, the Cantonese went behind to an early goal. Aluko’s shot somehow got through the penalty area without taking a deflection and ended its journey in the far corner.
After this R&F piled on the pressure and had multiple near misses. The equaliser eventually came when Tang Miao’s cut-back found Saba unmarked in the box. Zahavi then stabbed a shot in with the outside of his boot to give the Cantonese the lead just after half-time.
Saba sealed the win with twenty minutes to go. Tang’s through ball was brilliantly played, but so was Saba’s jink inside the defender. 3-1 to R&F with all the goals scored by foreigners.
The pace of the game slowed after this with the Guangzhou heat taking its toll – there were water breaks mid-way through each half. Ye Chugui’s introduction livened things up but not always for the right reasons. His contributions ranged from the spectacular to the awful during his time on the field. Talking of game time, in an increasingly rare occurrence U23 centre back Huang Zhengyu played the full 90 minutes.
In other news
First choice domestic forward Xiao Zhi is still out. The newer, younger alternative Gui Hong has been kept on the bench for the last couple of games as Stojković tweaks the formation. Zahavi’s incredible goal scoring record continues regardless. He is the first in the CSL to hit double figures in 2019 so is top of the scoring charts.
Perhaps more surprisingly, Tang Miao is top of the assist charts. The right wing back has six so far, the majority early crosses or cut-backs from the byline. Tang has been flying up and down the touchline at Yuexiushan with his socks halfway down his shins since 2011. In fact, Tang has been in Guangzhou so long that – as the club put it with a nod to Guoan, Evergrande and Shenhua’s signings – he has been ‘naturalised’ and granted a local hukou. Given the coveted WEF young player of the year award in 2012 he has over 200 appearances for the Cantonese. Long may it continue.
Meanwhile on the opposite flank, Ding Haifeng seems to have finally settled the debate over who should play left back. Despite sharing Tang’s attacking instincts, his end product isn’t as good.
With the European season over, clubs are arriving in China for some friendlies. After playing a few German sides in the past, R&F welcome Borussia Mönchengladbach – fifth in the Bundesliga – this year.
Recent results mean that when league action resumes, the Cantonese will have a more positive outlook. Instead of worrying about the bottom of the table, thoughts can now perhaps turn to closing the gap to the teams chasing the top three. On Sunday R&F play one of those sides – Shandong.
The following Saturday the Cantonese host the now Chris Coleman-less Hebei. This is first of three home games in June as R&F’s initially heavy away schedule is balanced up with more home games. An away trip to Guoan splits the home games.