By Michael Church
HONGKONG (Reuters) – Rafa Benitez’s Dalian Yifang defeated Henan Jianye 3-1 on Sunday as the former Liverpool and Real Madrid coach made a winning start to life in the Chinese Super League (CSL).
Benitez, who joined the club after rejecting a new contract at Newcastle United at the end of last month, saw Emmanuel Boateng score twice either side of a penalty from Yannick Carrasco as Dalian remain in 10th place in the 16-team standings.
Henan briefly threatened a fightback when Ivo reduced the deficit 19 minutes from time but Benitez’s side held on.
“Thanks to everyone for giving me so much support from the first day since I came,” said Benitez.
“It’s unrealistic to make changes in a short period of time. My job is to slowly instil ideas into the players and I hope that over the next period the organisation of the team will be more rigorous and the communication will be smoother.”
Boateng put Dalian in front 20 minutes into the game when Henan goalkeeper Wu Yan fumbled Carrasco’s high ball into the area and the Ghanaian striker netted from close range.
With six minutes to go to the break Carrasco struck from the spot and, nine minutes into the second half, Boateng claimed his second when his deflected effort from the edge of the area beat Wu.
Ivo then headed in from inside the six-yard box as Henan briefly threatened a comeback but Benitez’s side closed out the game to take all three points.
The win allowed Dalian to open up a three-point gap over Henan and also means they are now nine points clear of the two relegation places, which are occupied by Beijing Renhe and bottom side Tianjin Tianhe.
Beijing Renhe lost 2-0 on Sunday when Roger Guedes and Graziano Pelle were on target for Shandong Luneng while Tianjin Tianhe slipped to a 3-1 loss at the hands of Guangzhou Evergrande on Friday.
That result leaves Guangzhou two points behind Beijing Guoan, who continue to lead the standings following Saturday’s 3-0 win over Wuhan Zall, which included a brace from Jonathan Viera with Renato Augusto also on target.
Shanghai SIPG remain in third after their 3-1 win over neighbours Shanghai Shenhua, who were playing their first game under new coach Choi Kang-hee.
Eran Zahavi returned from suspension to score a league-leading 17th goal of the season in Guangzhou R&F’s 4-2 win over Chongqing Lifan while Tianjin Teda won 2-1 against Jiangsu Suning and Hebei CFFC were held to a 1-1 draw by Shenzhen FC.
(Reporting by Michael Church; editing by Clare Fallon)