After two consecutive wins, the Cantonese have now been pegged back and sit 8th in the CSL. They only managed a point at home to Hebei on Saturday, and even that was secured late in the game.
Taking a break from competitive action, Guangzhou R&F lost 4-0 in a mid-week friendly against Borussia Mönchengladbach in late May. Stojković put out a similar second string team to the one that was embarrassed in the CFA Cup against Taizhou so the loss was no surprise. Nor was the weakened team. The CSL game against Shandong the following weekend was much more important.
Shandong Luneng 3 – 1 Guangzhou R&F
After getting their CSL campaign back on track with two straight wins, R&F were brought down to earth with a bump in Jinan. Stojković continued with the attacking threat of Saba rather than the defender Tosic. The big Serbian was missed as both Pelle and Fellaini were physical threats for the hosts. The latter poked home the rebound from his free header to open the scoring after half an hour.
The Cantonese were brighter after the break. Demeble shrugged off one challenge before passing to Zahavi who arrowed a half volley into the top corner for the equaliser.
Shandong weren’t done though as Gil easily won a header to put them back in front. Pelle somehow ended the game scoreless, but he did provide the assist for Shandong’s third. Hao Junmin’s well taken finish sealed all three points. R&F will be pleased that they had the bulk of possession away to one of the CSL’s better sides, but the 3-1 scoreline shows there is still some way to go before R&F can be ranked in the same category.
Guangzhou R&F 2 – 2 Hebei China Fortune
With the changes to the U23 rule, Wang Peng was the only one involved for the Cantonese at a wet Yuexiushan. Wang lasted to half time, unlike Liu Yiming who’d been brought off after just 5 minutes in Jinan. Li Tixiang also came back into the starting eleven.
In what is becoming an unwanted pattern at home games, R&F again conceded the opening goal. Ren Hang overcame Fan Yunlong’s half-hearted effort at marking to head Hebei into the lead.
For their part, the Cantonese weren’t afraid to shoot from distance but it was a cheeky back-flick from Saba on the six yard box that brought the equaliser. The Israeli later blew an incredible 2-1 chance as he raced clear from inside his own half with Zahavi in support and only the keeper to beat. In fact, R&F dominated possession but Wang Qiuming’s great strike gave Hebei back the lead.
In a crazy finish to the game, Jiang Jihong came up from the back to make it 2-2 in the 85th minute. Neither side was content to settle for a point though and there was still time for both to hit the woodwork. For all of R&F’s passing play – the Cantonese completed over 550 passes on Saturday – they had to settle for a point.
Like father, like son
There aren’t many famous father-son combinations in Chinese football. Jordi – son of Johan – Cruyff at Chongqing is a notable exception. Two others were on show at Yuexiushan on Saturday.
Hebei (interim) manager Xie Feng played for the national team, Beijing and Shenzhen in the early days of professional football. His father, Xie Hongjun, was himself an international and went to Hungary with China in the 1950s.
For Guangzhou R&F, U23 midfielder Wang Peng has his own international connection. His dad Wang Huiliang started the infamous 2-1 home loss to Hong Kong in qualifying for the 1986 World Cup.
After the international break, the Cantonese host Wuhan for the first time since 2013. R&F won both games that year, Rafael Coelho – remember him? – scored with a similar goal to Saba’s at the weekend in the away fixture. YN’s favourite punch bag Zhang Yuan scored the second.
Zhang also scored in the home 5-1 win meaning that 20% of the goals the attacking player scored in over 100 games for free scoring R&F were against Wuhan. Jiang Ning, who had a considerably better strike rate, notched a hat-trick with Yakubu getting the other.
The 2019 vintage of R&F will look to continue their attacking exploits against Wuhan. Stojković said at the Hebei post-match press conference that the open playing style will continue. This likely means Saba will retain his place with Tosic left out of the squad. After picking up one yellow card too many, Tang Miao will be suspended though.
The following week the Cantonese travel to Beijing to play table topping Guoan. R&F have never won at Gongti and Guoan’s form suggests that is unlikely to change this year.