Wu Lei’s late penalty earns point in thriller

CSLGuangzhou R&F 3 v 3 Shanghai SIPG
Sunday 31st July 2016
Yuexiushan Stadium

Only five-points separated the two sides heading into this encounter, the second CSL match to be shown live on Sky.

Sven-Goran Eriksson’s side travelled south to Guangzhou in the hope of returning to the top three. SIPG dropped to fourth after Shanghai Shenhua’s great win against Jiangsu Suning last night.

Standing in their way were Guangzhou R&F who had won their last five matches at home. They also had recent recruit, Eran Zahavi, providing a serious goal threat. The Israeli international has scored four goals in five matches, with three of those appearances coming from the bench.

hulk

Hulk is still recovering from an injury sustained during his debut.

SIPG were without the injured duo of Dario Conca and Asian transfer record, Hulk, while Asamoah Gyan has been demoted to the reserves due to the foreign player quota rules. That’s like paying Brad Pitt full salary to be an understudy in a movie.

The game itself took a little while to get going. The first opening came from Dragan Stojković’s side following some good play between Renatinho and Zahavi, which saw the latter shoot wide of the near-post.

Despite the slow start, Brazilian Renatinho broke the deadlock with a fine finish in the 17th minute. The midfielder received a great knockdown by Xiao Zhi, before hitting his half volley into the top corner from the edge of the area.

Suddenly, Shanghai SIPG was sparked into life and was level within a few minutes. China’s current football idol, Wu Lei, tapped home following a dangerous cross by Jean Kouassi from the left-hand side.

Wu Lei has been in fine form with five goals from his last five games prior to kick-off.

Guangzhou’s threat was from either Renatinho or Zahavi, while Kouassi and Wu Lei always looked to exploit the home side’s high line.

Despite a couple of long-range attempts and snap shots, the scores remained level heading into half-time.

But less than five minutes into the second half, Wu Lei broke the offside trap and rounded the onrushing keeper. The Chinese winger’s rolled attempt from a difficult angle nutmegged one defender and appeared to lack the necessary pace to reach the goal before a clearance could be made. But Yu Yang’s sliding attempt found the roof of his own net to give SIPG the lead.

Renatinho then had a mini-duel with Junling Yan, as he forced the SIPG goalkeeper into making a couple of good saves in the space of a minute.

eran zahavi

Zahavi looks to be a good signing.

Zahavi was then inches away from equalising with a curling effort in the 74th minute.

However, four minutes later, Guangzhou did find their equaliser thanks to Wang Song. The experienced midfielder drilled the loose ball into the bottom corner following a poor headed clearance.

Suddenly, Guangzhou had their tails up and Jiang Zhipeng earned his side a penalty within two minutes of Song’s equaliser.

Zahavi stepped up and confidently sent Junling Yan the wrong way and sent the locals delirious. In the space of two minutes, Guangzhou R&F had turned the game on its head and SIPG were heading back to Shanghai empty handed.

In the closing stages, Wu Lei did attempt an overhead kick, which went narrowly over the bar. But just a minute later, he was given the chance to complete his hat-trick when his side were awarded a 90th minute penalty.

Ivorian Kouassi was fouled and Wu Lei showed great composure despite the supporters’ best efforts as he shot high into the left corner.

This result coupled with Hebei China Fortune’s draw away to Shijiazhuang Ever Bright means SIPG, Shenhua and Hebei all sit third, fourth and fifth respectively on 34-points. The race for an Asian Champions League place could be more exciting than that of the title with Guangzhou Evergrande 10 ahead of Jiangsu with a game in hand.

Wu LeiMan of the match: Wu Lei

It’s hard to ignore someone who scores all three of his side’s goals. The Xu Genbao Academy graduate and speedy winger showed intelligent movement as well as the necessary calmness in front of goal when the opportunities arrived.