Vilified Jiang Zhipeng booed on Chinese Super League return as Guangzhou R&F maintain perfect start
Defender comes on as half-time substitute as Dragan Stojkovic’s side maintain their 100% record with a 1-0 wn at Yanbian Funde on Saturday
Vilified Jiang Zhipeng admitted “I didn’t expect to endure the pressure again” after the China international was booed throughout his substitute appearance for Guangzhou R&F in Saturday’s 1-0 away win over Yanbian Funde in the Chinese Super League.
Jiang was blamed for China’s defeat to Iran in this week’s World Cup qualifier in Tehran after his ex-wife made accusations of adultery towards the defender, which the 28-year-old was quick to deny.
But due to the obvious distractions and long flight back from Tehran following Tuesday’s 1-0 defeat, which all but ended China’s hopes of World Cup qualification, Jiang started on the bench at Yanji Nationwide Fitness Centre Stadium.
Jiang was introduced at half-time by coach Dragan Stojkovic and was on the field as Israel international striker Eran Zahavi struck the only goal of the game with 16 minute remaining as R&F recorded a third straight win at the start of the season.
Watch: Eran Zahavi score for Guangzhou R&F
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“I was taking pressure with the national team while players went on holidays. I didn’t expect to endure the pressure again after coming back. I can do nothing but tell myself to relax, to enjoy the game,” said Jiang.
“My job is a professional player. I came here to show my ability on the field and I enjoyed the game today even though the home fans booed me every time I touched the ball. I still managed to adjust my mentality by telling myself it’s no big deal.”
R&F had returned after the international break in a three-way tie for the lead at the top of the table, but after Shanghai SIPG were unlucky to lose 3-2 away to defending champion Guangzhou Evergrande, it is Stojkovic’s side who top the table ahead of Sunday’s fixtures.
Evergrande had deservedly taken a two-goal half-time lead at Tianhe Stadium through Yu Hanchao and Brazilian Alan as Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side looked to bounce back from losing to Shandong Luneng prior to the international break.
Watch: Yu Hanchao open the scoring for Guangzhou Evergrande
Brazilian coach Scolari was not at the stadium due to a suspension, while Evergrande were also without captain Zheng Zhi due to his own ban.
SIPG, though, roared back in the second half with Andre Villas-Boas’s side looking to maintain a perfect record in all competitions in 2017 as former Evergrande striker Elkeson and Brazilian compatriot Hulk drew the visitors level before the hour mark.
But with 10 minutes remaining, Yu was upended inside the area by sliding substitute Zhang Yi and Ricardo Goulart sent goalkeeper Yan Junling the wrong way from 12 yards, with R&F making the short trip to Tianhe Stadium for next week’s Guangzhou derby.
Elsewhere on Saturday, Hong Kong defender Festus Baise was sent off as Guizhou Zhicheng lost 1-0 at Hebei CFFC, while 2016 League One champions Tianjin Quanjian recorded a first win of the season after edging out Tianjin Quanjian 1-0 at home.
Watch: Ricardo Goulart net Guangzhou Evergrande’s winner
— Guangzhou Evergrande (@guangzhou1954) April 1, 2017
Shandong can rejoin R&F at the top of the table as they travel to Changchun Yatai on Sunday, while Beijing Guoan entertain Shanghai Shenhua.
Jiangsu Suning are also in action as they travel to Liaoning Whowin, while Tianjin Teda entertain Chongqing Lifan.
Gus Poyet’s Shenhua have made an unbeaten start to the season following the high-profile arrival of Argentinian Carlos Tevez.
“We haven’t done anything special during the international break, this is a normal game for us, but it has a special meaning for the fans as everybody knows it is a national derby. We are well prepared now,” said Shenhua coach Poyet.
“I think the arrival of Tevez was a sensational phenomenon in the world. Many people started to care about football now. As you can see since he joined us, the news of Shenhua has spread around the world, no matter it’s positive or negative. He gives us rich experience and strong will to win.”