Back-to-back wins at Yuexiushan move Guangzhou R&F up to 8th in the CSL.
Guangzhou R&F 2 – 0 Henan
In the battle between teams coached by former internationals who ended their respective playing careers in Japan, Stojković’s Cantonese came out ahead of Wang Baoshan’s Henan. They did so thanks to two goals from an Israeli. For the past few seasons, this has not been unusual. Expect that this time Zahavi was suspended so it was Dia Saba doing the scoring. The first came from the penalty spot after he’d been taken down by two Henan defenders, with the second a well finished break away.
In the final match before the changing of the U23 rule, midfielder Wang Peng played 85 minutes, whilst Huang Zhengyu and Li Yuyang made cameo appearances. After being left out of the squad for six successive games, foreign centre back Dusko Tosic finally registered his fifth appearance of 2019. The most notably thing about Fuli’s defence wasn’t that Tosic played though, it was that they didn’t concede.
A clean sheet!
The win over Henanwas R&F’s first clean sheet of the season. Their previous one came in the final game of last season away at Beijing Renhe. Whilst Cantonese fans were waiting for a clean sheet:
- R&F conceded 34 goals (and it would’ve been more but for Cheng Yuelei’s heroics)
- One new centre back was signed – Jin Pengxiang’s sole game for the Cantonese was the 5-1 hammering by Jiangsu
- Eran Zahavi scored 16 goals for Guangzhou R&F
- Marcello Lippi stood down and was later reappointed as national team coach
- The rules about U23 and foreign players were changed two -three? more? – times
Guangzhou R&F 4 – 2 Chongqing
Saturday night saw R&F record a good win against a Chongqing side who are performing better than many expected in 2019.
Zahavi was straight back into the starting line-up, but perhaps surprisingly it was at the expense of Dembele rather than Tosic. The Serbian justified his selection by belting home a loose ball in the box after half an hour. This was a timely intervention because the Cantonese, having started well, were being pushed back by Chongqing.
Fuli couldn’t quite hold their lead until half-time and within a couple of minutes of the restart found themselves 2-1 behind. The first involved a lucky deflection but the second was well worked.
Second half comeback
Stojković brought on Dembele and Jiang Jihong for Chen Zhizhao – who has been warming then bench for most of the season but not getting on the pitch because of the previous U23 rule – and Tosic. After being hauled off before the break eight times under the old U23 rule, this meant Wang Peng played his first 90 minutes in the CSL. At the other end of the age range, Lu Lin continued to roll back the years in midfield.
After Tosic beat Zahavi to the opening goal, Chongqing’s Yuan Mincheng beat the Israeli to the equaliser. Yuan’s unfortunate own goal didn’t have the comedy value of that own goal by R&F in the corresponding fixture last year though. Zahavi finally got his goal from the penalty spot after a foul on Lu Lin, before some lovely skill from Saba to add the fourth in stoppage time.
First, Zou Zheng – playing his first game since the 5-1 thumping by Jiangsu – was injured and had to go off before the break. Awkward timing for R&F as potential replacement Zhang Chenglong has just been loaned to Beijing Renhe.
Second, Stojković took the opportunity to hit back at some of his critics. “Everyone thinks we are a crazy team, playing crazy football” he said, but “we make the game more interesting, fans like to watch us.” With 69 goals in R&F’s 16 CSL games, it is hard to argue with this.
Rafael Benitez has swapped north east England for north east China by moving to Dalian. His new side are just one point behind the Cantonese going into Friday’s game. With Dalian fresh from a 3-1 win over Henan, this one should be closely contested. However, you could’ve said that about last year’s game before it turned into one of R&F’s worst away trips, ending in a 3-0 loss
At c. 2,000km one way – similar to the two Beijing and Tianjin clubs – Dalian is also one of R&F’s longest away trips of the season. A Friday-Tuesday turnaround before the next home game is not ideal preparation then. At least opponents Tianjiin TEDA have to make a long trip south too.