Samba star Elkeson is having quite the time of it at the moment as all the action in the Chinese Super League (CSL) unfolds with nine games to go. For starters, the goal-getter’s very own Guangzhou Evergrande remain top of the table thanks to chalking up their 18th league victory in 21 games all courtesy of a comfortable 3-0 win at Shandong Luneng.
And as well as contributing to the league leaders’ latest triumph, more good news awaited Elkeson — a former Botafogo ace back in Brazilian club football — with the announcement that he has been included in China’s provisional 50-man squad for the upcoming encounter with the Maldives in the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. If indeed he is chosen, the 30-year-old attacking midfielder would become the first player not of Chinese heritage to play for the country.
Guangzhou Evergrande are benefiting hugely from his efforts, of course, but in truth Fabio Cannavaro’s charges didn’t need to be at their best to overcome the challenge of a decidedly average Shandong Luneng.
Following a reasonably drab affair before the break, the game came to life following the interval when two strikes in three minutes virtually sealed the deal for the visitors — naturally, Elkeson was on the score sheet chipping in with a goal on the 55th minute after Wei Shihao had bagged the opener on 52 minutes. The Brazilian marksman’s goal meant that he drew level with Wu Lei’s CSL record of 102 goals. It has been a fantastic effort from the popular player and his efforts earned the congratulations of the football-loving public in China. As we were saying, quite a week for the South American fans’ favourite!
It was left for his fellow Brazilian, club skipper Paulinho, formerly of Barcelona, to wrap things up at 3-0 with an 89th minutes notch. The victory sees Guangzhou Evergrande stay top with 55 points, four points above ahead of second place Beijing Guoan in second spot.
As for Beijing Guoan, they kept the pace up at the summit with a 2-0 win over a spirited Hebei CFFC — but had to wait until some late drama unfolded with two injury-time spot-kicks saving the day for new coach Bruno Genesio, who took over from axed Roger Schmidt.
Renato Augusto slotted home the first penalty past a hapless Chi Wenyi to give his team the advantage in the 92nd minute after his original effort was adjudged to have been hand-balled by defender Jing Liu. Then Chi Wenyi upended striker Cedric Bakambu and the Congolese attacker stepped up to tuck away the resulting spot-kick.
It was all such a huge relief for new head coach Genesio – and he admitted as much following the last-gasp show when he told assembled members of the pres:
“In the second half we took advantage and took control of the second half. Finally, we won the game with two penalty kicks, we fully deserved the victory.”