By Michael and Church
HONGKONG (Reuters) – Guangzhou Evergrande took a huge stride towards reclaiming the Chinese Super League title on Sunday as Fabio Cannavaro’s side won 3-1 at second-placed Beijing Guoan to move seven points clear at the summit with eight games remaining.
Second-half goals from Elkeson and Yang Liyu in the top-of-the-table clash earned Guangzhou the three points after Beijing’s Zhang Yuning had cancelled out Paulinho’s opener for the visitors.
The win was Guangzhou’s 13th in a row in the league and moved them on to 58 points, seven more than Beijing and a further point clear of defending champions Shanghai SIPG.
“The league isn’t over yet, there are more difficult games to come,” said Cannavaro.
“It seems we have a certain advantage and we have to find a way to make sure we maintain this advantage.
“In the first half today, we played okay and after the score became 1-1 for 15 or 20 minutes our players weren’t in the game.
“But in the second half, we had control of the ball and can create more opportunities.”
Cannavaro has been under pressure to reclaim the league title that Guangzhou won for seven straight seasons before he took over from Luiz Felipe Scolari ahead of the 2018 campaign.
Facing a Beijing side attempting to win the title for the first time in a decade, Evergrande were ahead in 10 minutes at Workers’ Stadium when Paulinho capitalised on an error by the home defence to smash the ball past Zou Dehai.
Seven minutes later, Zhang equalised with a header into the bottom corner only for Elkeson, who rejoined Guangzhou from SIPG last month, to put his side back in front in the 52nd minute from close range.
Yang then put the result beyond doubt before the hour mark when he raced on to Elkeson’s through ball to slide his effort confidently beyond Zou.
Shanghai SIPG faltered again on Friday as Vitor Pereira’s side drew 2-2 with Guangzhou R&F.
Marko Arnautovic scored for the third time since joining SIPG from West Ham United last month, but his penalty was not enough to seal a much-needed win for the champions.
Dalian Yifang drew 2-2 with Jiangsu Suning as Rafael Benitez’s side maintained their strong form since the Spaniard’s arrival from Newcastle United while Marouane Fellaini scored for fourth-placed Shandong Luneng in their 3-0 win over Hebei CFFC.
Goals from Johnathan and Frank Acheampong earned Tianjin Teda a 2-1 win over Wuhan Zall but Beijing Renhe remain bottom of the table, five points from safety after a 2-1 loss at Henan Jianye.
(Editing by Ian Chadband)