At least one run was bound to end as Guizhou Zhicheng welcomed Guangzhou R&F for a showdown between two in-form sides in the early Sunday-match. The hosts had three, and the visitors four, straight wins ahead of today’s encounter. With the sides racking up 8 and 18 goals respectively during those runs (and R&F squeezing in a 6-9 aggregate loss in the cup-derby against Evergrande), the outlook for an entertaining afternoon was pretty good.
Recent result manifested themselves in confidence from both sides. However, Guizhou started out better with a commanding control of possession and patient build up. Hence, Rubén Castro’s opening goal in the 23rd minute was as logical as it was beautiful, with the Real Betis-loanee placing the ball in the top corner from outside the box. The goal was a wake-up call for a sleepy R&F-side, who instantly moved their positions forward and raised the tempo of their passing. Guizhou kept their calm, kept playing their own game and, with Sölvi Ottesen brought down Castro in a scoring position to receive his second yellow in the 39th minute, the mid-table side, that looked more like a ACL-contender, seemed to have the match wrapped up at the break.
At the restart, R&F were not going to let their inferior numbers stop them from making a serious go on turning the game around. But when Min Junlin (ironically on loan from R&F) fired home via the post with another lovely effort from outside the box 15 minutes into the second half, and with top-scorer Eran Zahavi, perhaps wrongfully, flagged off for offside as he thought he had pulled one back a minute later, those efforts looked in vain.
Despite not lacking any chances, particularly by repeatedly lifting the ball into the wide-open space in behind Guizhou left-back Tang Xin, the Cantonese outfit were unable to convert and Guizhou held on for an impressive win. And, in doing so, dealt a massive blow to R&F’s chase for a spot in next year’s AFC Champions League.