Kanton-derby and top games

Felix Magath’s Shandong Luneng travelled to Shanghai as league leaders to face SIPG on friday evening. The match ended 2-1 after Hulk getting his third for Evergrande, and Papiss Cissé his fourth for Luneng in this year’s CSL. Well worth noticing was Elkeson’s second absence this season, the Brazilian has 4 goals to his name from only two apperances in the league and it’s obvious that André Villas-Boas is the manager who’s taken the hardest hit from the new foreign player quota (having to rotate 4 of the very best players in the entire league on 3 spots must be disheartening). Unfortunately for the Portuguese, he may not even have to make the decision for a while, after seeing Hulk carried off on a stretcher after 69 minutes. The SIPG win brings us onto saturday’s Kanton-derby, since it means SIPG, Luneng and Guangzhou Evergrande all have one win from three internal matches in total, making the top of the table an open affair. It also meant that the visiting side, Guangzhou R&F, only needed one point to, surprisingly enough, be top of the league.

The outlook however, was bleek after Everegrande went ahead after only 10 minutes when Zheng Zhi found Alan who, being in great goal-scoring form, got his seventh goal from nine games in all competitions this season. R&F did not despair but stuck with Dragan Stojkovic’s game-plan, keeping play even throughout the first half, and both teams created chances of equal quality, at equal intervals.
In the 42nd minute, the match was justly tied. Eran Zahavi and Renatinho orchestrated some lovely attacking play that ended with Long Zheng (subbed on early in the match for the mandatory U23-player, Wen Jiabao) blocking a cross with his arm. Zahavi cooly sent Zeng Cheng the wrong way and tucked the penalty away neatly.
Three minutes later, Junior Urso broke loose on the left flank and sent in what looked like a poor cross, however Li Xuepeng forced Zeng Cheng to make a great save, heading the ball fiercely towards his own net. Before the first half came to an end, Cheng Yuelei had made an equally important stop, saving his defenders who lost the ball to Yu Hanchao, to let the winger play Alan in alone on goal. In the end, R&F went into the break as league leaders.

The second was just as tight as the first one, the best chances during the first fifteen minutes being R&F free-kicks around the box and it was one of those that finally resulted in 1-2 when Renatinho put a perfect left footed strike into the top corner on 64 minutes played. Scolari reacted instantly and brought on both Huang Bowen and Gao Lin within five minutes after going behind. Evergrande went full out attack but R&F looked closer to going two up on the break, until Gao Lin met Zhang Linpengs beautiful cross to head home in the dying minutes of the match. Neither side really came close to winning it after that and R&F, no doubt still very happy with the result, finds themselves alone at the top of the CSL, with 10 out of the maximum 12 points so far.

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