By Michael and Church
HONGKONG (Reuters) – Chinese Super League leaders Guangzhou Evergrande fought back from two goals down to salvage a point against Henan Jianye on Sunday as speculation mounted over the future of their coach Fabio Cannavaro.
Paulinho’s penalty and a 55th-minute header from Wei Shihao ensured the seven-times champions sealed a 2-2 draw with Wang Baoshan’s team, but the two points dropped mean they now lead Shanghai SIPG by a solitary point after Vitor Pereira’s side secured a 3-0 win over Dalian Yifang.
Guangzhou have won just once in their last nine games in all competitions and, with three matches remaining, speculation is increasing over Italian Cannavaro after Evergrande announced he would attend a “corporate cultural learning session” on Monday.
Cannavaro did not attend the post-match news conference and his post will be filled by club captain Zheng Zhi during his attendance of the course, the Evergrande statement said.
Guangzhou were looking to bounce back from their elimination from the Asian Champions League on Wednesday at the hands of Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds, but they made a poor start when Ivo scored for Henan with less than two minutes on the clock.
Christian Bassogog doubled the visitors’ lead 10 minutes before halftime, severely threatening Guangzhou’s hopes of reclaiming the title they lost to SIPG last season.
Paulinho pulled one back from the penalty spot six minutes after the restart and Wei levelled four minutes later when he nodded in Elkeson’s cross, but Cannavaro’s side were unable to find the winner.
SIPG are now only one point behind after they eased to victory over Rafa Benitez’s side, with Li Shenglong and Oscar among the scorers for the Shanghai club.
Beijing Guoan are third, a further point behind, after their 3-1 win over Tianjin Teda on Saturday while Shandong Luneng remain in fourth thanks a 1-1 draw with fifth-placed Jiangsu Suning.
Xie Pengfei gave Jiangsu the lead after 50 minutes and a win for Cosmin Olaroiu’s side would have seen them move into fourth, but Dai Lin’s stoppage-time leveller ensured Shandong remained one point ahead.
Elsewhere, Israel international striker Eran Zahavi netted his 28th goal of the campaign to equal Brazilian Elkeson’s single-season scoring record set in 2014, but it was not enough to stop Guangzhou R&F falling to a 2-1 loss against Hebei CFFC.
Shenzhen FC remain in the relegation zone after sharing eight goals with Wuhan Zall in a 4-4 thriller and Tianjin Tianhe were held to a 2-2 draw by bottom side Beijing Renhe.
Jordi Cruyff’s Chongqing Lifan, meanwhile, now sit in seventh following their 1-0 win over Shanghai Shenhua on Friday thanks to a solitary goal from Alan Kardec.
(Reporting by Michael Church, editing by Ed Osmond)