None of the three title contenders seem to be showing any signs of faltering after all three sides won on Matchday 18. Guo’an narrowly edged past Renhe in a fiery Beijing derby thanks to a dubious penalty decision, whilst Guangzhou Evergrande thumped Dalian Yifang 4-1 at the Tianhe Stadium. Three great goals saw reigning champions Shanghai SIPG also keep the pressure on Guo’an, as a poor Hebei side were no match for Vítor Pereira’s side.
Beijing Guo'an 2-1 Beijing Renhe
Business as usual for Guo’an as they returned to the CSL summit courtesy of a fourth successive win surrounded in controversy.
Guo’an’s goals came from Wang Ziming and a controversial penalty kick from Brazilian international Renato Augusto.
Despite the three points, the biggest implication come the end of the season could very well be the injury to star midfielder Jonathan Viera. Making way for the returning Cedrick Bakambu in the 20th minute, Guo'an announced post-game that the Spaniard had broken his ribs.
With eight goals and six assists to his name in 18 matches so far this season, a period of prolonged absence could have huge ramifications on the title race.
The home side came out of the blocks firing and found themselves in front after just six minutes. A lofted left-footed cross from Jin Taiyan was duly dispatched by a powerful header from Wang Ziming for his fifth goal of the season.
Relegation-threatened Renhe, who were without a win in six games, found themselves surprisingly back on level terms 15 minutes into the second half. Cao Yongjing laid a free-kick off for Makhete Diop, whose 25-yard low driven free-kick deflected off Chi Zhongguo, leaving Zou Dehai stranded in the Guo’an goal.
Renhe’s 15th goal of the season looked to have put the visitors on their way to an all-important point away from home. That was until the highly disputed awarding of a penalty, as Renato Augusto theatrically fell to the ground.
As Cao Yongjing swung to clear the ball from his penalty box, the midfielder's trailing arm was alleged to have caught Augusto who fell to the ground clutching his face, leaving the Renhe players irate with referee Mark Clattenburg’s decision.
The Brazilian dusted himself off and slotted the resulting penalty to the keeper’s right side with ease. Augusto’s ninth goal of the season, nine minutes from time, confirmed that Guo’an returned to the top of the CSL with a two-point cushion over Guangzhou Evergrande and defending champions Shanghai SIPG.
A 16th win in 18 games this season left Roger Schmidt content with his sides performance, as he told the media: “It wasn’t beautiful today but we’re happy to get the three points. There are always a few games like this in a season so I’m very happy to win this game.”
The result ensures Renhe stay in 15th place, three points adrift of Shenzhen who sit just above the drop zone in 14th.
Guangzhou Evergrande 4-1 Dalian Yifang
A Paulinho hatrick fired Guangzhou Evergrande to an emphatic 4-1 victory over Dalian Yifang in Guangdong.
The Brazilian’s first had levelled the game for the seven-time CSL champions after Dalian had taken a surprising lead, before his second and third secured the three points late on to keep Evergrande hot on Beijing Guo’an’s tail.
Just before the half-hour mark, the former Barcelona man got his side back on level terms after latching onto a dangerous low delivery from winger Yang Liyu and firing under a helpless Chong Zhang in the Dalian goal.
Fans had to wait whilst the 82nd minute for Paulinho to score his and Evergrande’s, second, as the Brazilian midfielder did well to dispossess Qin Sheng in the Dalian area before working a shooting opportunity and firing home.
Paulinho claimed his hatrick in injury time after great link up play with compatriot Elkeson. The midfielder did well once more to win the ball in a dangerous area before playing a slick one-two with the newly signed striker; dropping his shoulder and driving past a static defence and lashing in a left-footed strike into the far corner.
Elkeson, keen to get in on the act too, scored Evergrande’s fourth deep into stoppage time after latching on to a lovely through ball from experienced forward Gao Lin, dancing his way past a tiring defence and calmly slotting past Chong Zhang to give the home side a resounding win.
The visitors had taken the lead early on after defender Qin Sheng was the quickest to react when an out-swinging corner bounced around the Evergrande box and stabbed an effort through the legs of Dianzuo Liu. That was the former Evergrande man’s first goal for Dalian, but Sheng didn’t celebrate at his old stomping ground.
Evergrande stay second whilst Dalian slip down to ninth.
Shanghai SIPG 3-1 Hebei CFFC
Two late goals from Hulk and Oscar rounded off a dominant Shanghai SIPG display as they breezed past struggling Hebei China Fortune at Shanghai Stadium, even without new boy Marko Arnautovic who didn’t make the squad.
A first half strike from Chen Binbin saw the reigning Chinese Super League champions go one up before the break before fantastic solo efforts from the Brazilian duo rounded off a resounding performance for Vítor Pereira’s side.
Shanggang’s opener was a delightful finish from the 21-year-old Chinese wide-man who celebrated his first ever SIPG goal in some style.
A dangerous delivery from Oscar on the right flank was fired in towards forward Li Shenlong, but defender Junzhe Zhang flicked it away.
The ball fell to the hot prospect 15 yards out who kept his volley down brilliantly; drilling a low strike past Chi Wenyi into the bottom corner.
SIPG’s second was yet another goal for the Hulk collection book of solo efforts. The former Zenit and Porto man won the ball in the middle of the park thanks to his burly stature, before skipping past Jin Yangyang and Pan Ximing, holding off a last-ditch challenge from Argentine Javier Mascherano and burying a cool right-footed finish into the far corner.
The all-important clincher five minutes from time allowed the home side to really express themselves, and their third came just moments later.
Defender Shi Ke did well to cut out a loose ball and played a lovely first-time ball into the feet of Oscar. With nothing seemingly on for the Brazilian as he had no one in support, Hebei’s makeshift full-back Jin Yangyang was made to look foolish as Oscar flicked the ball around the defender Dennis Bergkamp like, before marauding his way into the area and slotting home past Chi Wenyi.
Image via Jack Douglas/That's
The visitors had had the ball in the net twice in the first half thanks to efforts from Ezequiel Lavezzi and Marcao, but the linesman correctly adjudged the latter to be offside in the build-up of both goals.
Chen Binbin seemingly wasn’t content with just scoring on the night, as he provided some superb deliveries from the left wing which caused Hebei’s back line all sorts of problems.
The youngster fired a dangerous in-swinging ball just after half time which Wang Shenchao looked destined to head home. The Shanggang wing-back beat his man to the ball but headed wide of the far post.
The result sees SIPG stay third thanks to the top two also winning, whilst Hebei remain in 12th.
Eran Zahavi’s 20th and 21st goals of the season helped Guangzhou R&F to a 2-1 win over Tianjin Teda at the Yuexiushan Stadium. The Israeli’s form in front of goal this term has been sensational, and he is leading the race for the golden boot by a whopping nine goals already.
Choi Kang-hee picked up his first three points as Shanghai Shenhua boss with a crucial 3-2 win over Henan Jianye that saw the visitors have Han Xuan sent off.
Shandong Luneng edged out Tianjin Tianhai 2-1 in Jinan whilst Chongqing Lifan moved up to fifth thanks to Alan Kardec’s goal and assist which saw them beat Shenzhen 2-0 down south.
Jiangsu Suning owner Zhang Jindong was seen at a Premier League trophy match in Shanghai rather than following his own club’s game; luckily for him he didn’t miss much as the Nanjing outfit drew 1-1 with Wuhan Zall.
How things stand. Image via Sky Sports
[Cover image via @sipg_fc on Instagram]