International break offers chance to take Chinese Super League stock

Shanghai SIPG, Shandong Luneng and Guangzhou R&F lead the way with the only 100% records remaining after two games ahead of China’s Fifa World Cup qualifiers with South Korea and Iran

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 March, 2017, 2:23pm
UPDATED : Monday, 13 March, 2017, 2:23pm

It might be a bit early to right off the chances of a team winning the Chinese Super League title after just two games, but the upcoming international break does give us time to reflect on the opening two rounds of the 2017 domestic season.

Guangzhou Evergrande, Shanghai SIPG and Jiangsu Suning are in AFC Champions League action this week, but in terms of the Super League, we will see you in April as China resume their already doomed qualifying campaign for the 2018 Fifa World Cup at home to South Korea and away to Iran.

That means things won’t get any easier for Marcello Lippi and his charges with China still yet to record a win in group A having drawn at home to Qatar in November and lost to Syria on home soil in October.

Iran and South Korea are Asia’s top two sides, who sit at the top of group A, and to be honest China will do well to pick up a draw from either ties, especially a trip to Tehran’s Azadi Stadium.

Lippi’s players should still be fresh with the games against Syria and Qatar coming at the end of the 2016 Super League season, so they can’t use that excuse of being tired after just two games in the new Super League for most.

A look at the Super League table sees Shanghai SIPG and somewhat surprise packages Shandong Luneng and Guangzhou R&F leading the way with the only 100% records remaining after two games.

Chinese Super League opener answers some questions and asks some new ones

SIPG are expected to be there with the likes of Oscar, Hulk and Elkeson to call upon, Shandong seem to have a solid enough squad under hard German taskmaster Felix Magath, but it is the sight of R&F and not Evergrande as Guangzhou’s representative at the top of the table that requires a double take.

But there they are. They have had a relatively easy start with wins over 2016 League One champions Tianjin Quanjian and Changchun Yatai at home, so let’s check back in when the next World Cup qualifiers roll around in June and see if order has been restored.

Changchun are the only side in the Super League without a point from their opening two games, although another side who were expected to struggle have two from two.

Guizhou Zhicheng finished second behind Tianjin in League One last season, but have drawn with both Liaoning Whowin and Beijing Guoan at home.

Hong Kong coach Kim Pan-gon urges caution over pursuing Chinese Super League career

Li Bing’s Guizhou had taken the lead through Hong Kong’s own Baise Festus against Beijing, and after being pegged back by Beijing’s Turkey striker Burak Yilmaz before half time, rode their luck in the final stages as the visitors first had a goal ruled out correctly for handball with 10 minutes left and then were denied a seemingly legitimate goal in stoppage time.

Li Lei’s header appeared to cross the line before being caught by the Guizhou goalkeeper who had stepped back over his goal line in anticipation of a cross before falling back over the line with the ball in his arms.

Watch: Guizhou Zhicheng 1 Beijing Guoan 1 highlights

Unfortunately for Beijing and fortunately for Guizhou, the Super League does not yet have goal line technology and play continued.

But with all the money in the Super League and the ease in which conspiracy theories appear (just ask Evergrande coach Luiz Felipe Scolari), and the previous history of the league and its association with match-fixing, expect to see this arrive soon rather than later.

Guangzhou Evergrande’s Luiz Felipe Scolari slams Zheng Zhi ban claiming officials favour CSL rivals Shanghai SIPG

Evergrande captain Zheng Zhi, who is also the captain of the national team, is one player who should be fresher than most after missing their 2-1 defeat by Shandong at the weekend.

Zheng was sent off as Evergrande beat Beijing on the opening weekend, and it was a far cop, so he missed this weekend. Fine.

But what led Scolari to claim his side are being punished unfairly in favour of SIPG is that Zheng will also miss April’s showdown with Andre Villas-Boas’ early pacesetters after being handed an additional one-match ban after taking his time to leave the field after his dismissal against Beijing.

Zheng did seem to take his time to head for an early bath, with Scolari claiming his captain needed an ice compression on the bench.

Andre Villas-Boas again hits out at Chinese Super League foreign player rules despite Shanghai SIPG win

Another play who should be well rested in SIPG’s Zhang Huachen as Villas-Boas again withdraw his mandatory Chinese under 23 player after 17 minutes of their 2-0 win over Yanbian Funde at Shanghai Stadium having also substituted the 18-year-old after 30 minutes of their 5-1 comeback win over Changchun a week earlier.

Villas-Boas has been openly critical of the new squad rules enforced on clubs this season which SIPG are complying with, and while he as the coach has the right to make changes he sees fit, the question again needs to be asked, does hauling off a teenager in such a way really help anyone?

You might belive Villas-Boas when he claims he is protecting the teenager, or it is for tactical reasons, but you could also see this as the Portuguese coach making a point to the rule makers.

China need a new supply of players to have a chance of competing with the likes of South Korea or Iran, or Syria, and this rule could help that eventually, but not if it is exploited like this.