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Cup embarrassment and a loss in Shanghai for Guangzhou R&F

Mid-week embarrassment at China League Two side Taizhou Yuanda continues R&F’s poor start to the season.

It has been a busy few weeks since the last YN was published: first win of the season, a derby lost and another derby won, an away hammering, embarrassment in the Cup, all rounded off by a defeat to SIPG.

Something to shout about

Positives first. The Cantonese got their first win of 2019 with a 2-1 victory over Shanghai Shenhua at a wet Yuexiushan. Jiang Jihong’s clumsy challenge gave away a late penalty which Ighalo scored to cancel out Zahavi’s opener. The defender redeemed himself by winning a header from a stoppage time corner which Zhu Jianrong bundled into his own net. Jiang, Stojković and the rest of Yuexiushan celebrated.

A couple of weeks later Shenzhen came to town for the first Guangdong derby of the season. They went sent back down the Pearl River with a 3-1 loss. Zahavi completed his hat-trick in stoppage time after R&F had been given a scare by Preciado’s pace for Shenzhen.

Canton Derby and a hammering in Nanjing

The win in the Guangdong derby came after a loss in the Canton derby. Early in the game at Tianhe, Talisca found space between the R&F defensive line and midfielders to curl an effort at goal from outside the box. The rest of the game was a case of déjà vu with Talisca repeatedly finding the same space and taking the same curling shot. He duly scored both goals in Evergrande’s 2-0 win.

The Cantonese found themselves on the wrong end of a 5-1 scoreline in Nanjing. Tosic’s early header to make it 1-1 was as good as it got for R&F as Eder and Teixeira both got doubles for Jiangsu. Stojković took off keeper Cheng Yuelei in the 86th minute to comply with the U23 rules – or to give Cheng’s back a rest after picking the ball out of his net so often – for youngster Han Jiaqi. Han didn’t do any better. Xie Pengfei’s shot squirmed under him to complete a miserable night for R&F.

Taizhou Yuanda 1 – 0 Guangzhou R&F

A potential banana skin tie away to Taizhou Yuanda in the CFA Cup proved exactly that. Taizhou are in China League Two so to even things up R&F weren’t allowed to use any foreigners. Stojković rested some other regulars but the Fuli side was still had plenty of CSL experience: Lu Lin, Chen Zhizhao, Li Tixiang, Huang Zhengyu and Zou Zheng all started on Wednesday afternoon. Tang Miao and Ye Chugui came off the bench too. Fan Yunlong didn’t even make if off the bench after his red card for an incident with a ballboy.

Taizhou were playing amateur football this time last year but were on a seven game winning streak coming into the game. They played their strongest side, including Wen Chao who made a couple of CSL appearances for R&F in the Sergio Farias era. To add insult to injury, Taizhou’s scorer Xu Jiajun used to be in the R&F youth team. It wasn’t great defending though as Xu skipped away from two defenders on the by-line before beating Han at his near post.

The Cantonese have a good record in the Cup in recent years and have never suffered such an ignominious exit before. The only saving grace is that Taizhou isn’t too far from Shanghai so it cut down on the travelling before the CSL game against SIPG.

Shanghai SIPG 2 – 0 Guangzhou R&F

What better way to follow defeat to a League Two side than a visit to the Chinese champions?

A much changed Cantonese side held SIPG scoreless until half time, but were lucky to see a couple of strikes whistle past Cheng’s post. SIPG started the second half well and it was a case of when, not if, the goal would arrive. It would be fair to say not many expected it to come the way it did. The ball cannoned in off Li Shenglong after a bit of pinball from a corner.

This woke the Cantonese up and they produced their best spell of the game, but never really threatened to score. SIPG didn’t have this problem and Hulk settled the game with a counterattack goal. Fuli kept up the fight with Tosic and Dembele prominent to the last, and the latter finally delivered his team’s first shot on target in the 89th minute. Whilst disappointing, a 2-0 loss away to the reigning champions is no disgrace.

Some thoughts

The continued absence of Xiao Zhi is hurting the Cantonese attack. Xiao’s replacement is 24 year old Gui Hong who arrived from Hebei in the winter. In three seasons in Hebei, Gui played about 700 minutes of CSL football. He has already played 600 for R&F. Not a terrible player, but not who you want to lead the line in attack either.

Gui was involved in the high scoring early season games though. Since then, R&F have struggled to create good enough chances to hit the target. Only one shot on target against each of Evergrande, Shenhua and SIPG, with three against Jiangsu and four against Shenzhen. Is the departure of Renatinho having an impact R&F?

Meanwhie, Stojković seems to have changed his policy on U23s. In 2017, Huang Zhengyu played more U23 minutes than anyone else in the league. Last year, the U23s were rotated but the starter usually got a reasonable amount of game time, or at least was more likely to get 30 minutes rather than 3 minutes. In the past couple of games though, poor Liu Yiming has been yanked off after 4 minutes and 10 minutes.

Finally, in the Hong Kong Premier League, R&F HK fell just short in their fight for the league championship.

Up next

The fixture list has not been kind to R&F so far with just three home games – where R&F have two wins and a draw – compared to five on the road. That trend continues with Sunday’s visit to Tianjin Tianhai. R&F get their sole May home game a week later against Beijing Renhe. Tianhai and Renhe are both below R&F in the CSL so Stojković will be looking for at least one win.

Donald began following Guangzhou R&F having moved to China in the same year that R&F moved to Guangzhou. The club's first foreign season ticket holder, Donald was able to watch three seasons at Yuexiushan before returning to the UK.

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