A midweek round has just been finished and it brought a few interesting results to the table. Let’s break down matchday 21 for you.
We start with perhaps the most surprising game of the round with Wednesday’s fixture between mid-table Chongqing Lifan and Champions League chasing Shandong Luneng.
This was a match where Shandong could be looking to gain the upper hand on a few of their rivals as they were either playing each other or better-placed teams and a win could see them go all the way to third place, and still have a game in hand on the teams around them. But that was not to be. A goal from Alan Kardec ten minutes before half time meant that Shandong had to chase for the entirety of the second half but managed to get nothing from it, bar a few extra yellow cards, and had to go home with zero points as Chongqing won 1-0. The win has now brought Chongqing within seven points of third place. With ten games to go, that is not an impossible task, bigger miracles have happened.
At the same time as Shandong were losing, the only one of the Champions League chasers who were also playing a side not in the immediate Champions League chase, Guangzhou R&F were beating Jiangsu Suning quite comfortably. An early Roger Martinez goal put the scare into R&F but Lu Lin equalised on the stroke of half time, and Eran Zahavi put R&F in front just ten minutes into the second half. It only took R&F 17 minutes to pull away as Xiao Zhi and Renatinho scored a goal each to render Martinez’s second of the night, just as the match was ebbing out, nothing more than a consolation goal, as R&F won 4-2. The fourth win on the bounce now sees R&F occupy that all-important fourth place and they also sit just one point behind Tianjin Quanjian who failed to put distance between themselves and the chasers.
Tianjin had the chance to pull away as they were at home to Beijing Guoan yesterday. Guoan, who are also in the run for that fourth place, needed a win to keep up with R&F from the day before. But it was the home side that started best. They looked comfortable as they went into half time 2-0 up. But within 15 minutes of the second half, that lead was taken from them, as Zhang Xizhe and Yu Yang brought the sides level. The scoreline stood that way for the remainder of the match and neither team are happy with that.
The other big match was second placed Shanghai SIPG travelling to play Hebei China Fortune and it was a cracking affair. Elkeson put SIPG in front, assisted by Hulk, early in the first half and then the match exploded in the last 20 minutes. Ezequiel Lavezzi put Hebei level in the 71st minute and just three minutes later Zhunyi Gao put Hebei in front. That looked to be the decisive goal before Hulk once again assisted an SIPG goal as He Guan equalized in injury time to bring the match back to 2-2.
That draw meant that Guangzhou Evergrande had the opportunity to pull away at the top as they faced Liaoning Whowin at the same time.
And pull away is just what they have done. A Paulinho goal in the first half and a Ricardo Goulart brace in the second meant the league leaders ran away 3-0 winners and pulled out a five point gap down to SIPG. That is going to be one hard gap to close.
Elsewhere in the league the two bottom dwellers Yanbian Funde and Tianjin TEDA faced off with the most bottom of the dwellers coming out on top 3-1 and closing the gap to TEDA down to two points, while Liaoning’s loss means there are now just three points separating the bottom three teams. That will make for an exciting run-in.
Mid-table Changchun Yatai travelled to almost-safe-but-not-quite Henan Jianye and won 2-0 thanks to an Odion Ighalo brace, while Shanghai Shenhua were beaten 3-0 by a very in-form Guizhou Hengfeng Zhicheng in a match that included two injury time goals from new boy Ruben Castro.