Guangzhou Evergrande kicked off the 2020 Chinese Super League season today with a convincing 2-0 victory over Shanghai Shenhua.
After many months of delays and uncertainty, the top tier of Chinese football finally returned as the reigning league champions took on the reigning FA Cup champions in Dalian.
In the first competitive match played without fans in the stadium, it was Fabio Cannavaro’s Guangzhou side that showed their quality thanks to two goals from Wei Shihao either side of the half.
Shanghai Shenhua lined up in a fairly defensive 4-4-2 system, with a slew of recent signings making their debut for the club, while Guangzhou went for an attacking approach with a 4-3-3 system.
Wei Shihao, Elkeson (Ai Kesen) and Yang Liyu led the line for the league champions, causing a number of problems between Shenhua’s midfield and defensive lines.
This became evident before ten minutes had even been played, with Wei Shihao opening the scoring with a rocket shot from within the box.
After receiving a pass from the 2019 Player of the Year, Paulinho, Wei cut in from the left flank and drove inside the penalty box before sending a fierce shot flying into the far corner.
Shenhua responded with a possession-based style of playing, retaining the ball and even having the majority of chances during the match, but none truly threatening goalkeeper Liu Dianzuo.
Cao Yunding was a bright spark for the boys in blue, cutting in from the right wing regular to cause problems in front of the Guangzhou net.
Before the half he had a strong, deadly accurate shot saved by Liu Dianzuo, in what would be the team’s best chance of scoring.
A number of set plays and headed shots made the Guangzhou defence grow nervous throughout the match, but the central partnership of Jiang Guangtai (aka Tyias Browning) and Mei Fang stood strong and kept their opponents at bay.
It was a particularly impressive display from Jiang Guangtai, who had struggled to feature for Guangzhou during the 2019 season due to uncertainties surrounding his registration as a naturalised player, but it appears that this has been cleared up.
He had an impressive one-on-one bought with El Shaarawy during the first half, showing his strength and keeping the Italian forward from getting a threatening chance off.
This defensive effort allowed Guangzhou to continue to play a smart counter-attack, which led to Yang Liyu picking up a ball wide open on the right wing in the second half, driving it into the Shenhua box before coolly sending it across goal for Wei Shihao to tap into the net at the back post.
The Chinese international wouldn’t have a chance to push for a hat trick as he was substituted just a few minutes later, but his efforts were more than enough to secure Guangzhou the three points and get their 2020 season up and running in the best manner possible.