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Chinese Super League 2017

Luiz Felipe Scolari concerned ‘something weird must have happened’ with Guangzhou Evergrande

Defending Chinese Super League champions slip to fifth place in the table, three points off the pace, following Saturday’s 2-2 draw with derby rivals and table-toppers R&F

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 April, 2017, 4:01pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 April, 2017, 10:55pm

Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari is worried “that something weird must have happened” with Guangzhou Evergrande after Saturday’s 2-2 draw with cross-town rivals R&F left the defending Chinese Super League champions in the unusual position of fifth place in the table.

Evergrande needed a stoppage-time header from China striker Gao Lin at Tianhe Stadium to avoid a second defeat of the new season as Scolari’s side ended R&F’s 100 per cent start.

But with unbeaten Hebei CFFC downing Shanghai Shenhua also on Saturday after Shanghai SIPG ended Shandong Luneng’s perfect start on Friday, Evergrande find themselves three points behind leaders R&F after four games.

“I’m very worried about their form. The fact is the whole team seemed very low and I need to know what has happened to this team. I have a feeling that something weird must have happened, at least five, six or seven players were not in form,” said Scolari, who takes his team to Japan on Wednesday for a meeting with Japan’s Kawasaki Frontale in the AFC Champions League.

Watch: Guangzhou Evergrande 2 Guangzhou R&F 2

“I think there is one reason, the team seem to make trouble for themselves. Normally, if we seize the opportunities, we can make the game very easy because we are very strong.

“But everyone knows if you don’t seize the opportunities, you will pay the price. I think we’re still on the right track and we can still defend the championship.”

Gao Lin saves Guangzhou Evergrande’s blushes in derby with last-minute equaliser against Chinese Super League leaders R&F

Gao’s late heroics from Zhang Linpeng’s back post cross saw Evergrande preserve their unbeaten streak at home in the Super League which now stands at 33 dating back to March 2015.

R&F had hit back either side of half-time through Israel striker Eran Zahavi and Brazilian forward Renatinho following Alan’s ninth-minute opener for the home side.

Watch: Hebei CFFC 4 Shanghai Shenhua 2 highlights

“We made the same mistake again which is to say that we couldn’t seize the absolute opportunity when it came up then we let the opponents come back. R&F are always very strong and we’ve hardly taken any advantage of them in past meetings. I respect them a lot,” added Scolari, who was appointed in June 2015.

“Although the game was very difficult,we still managed to equalise as the substitutes were obviously very effective.”

Dragan Stojkovic’s Guangzhou R&F out ‘to bring more trouble’ for Evergrande in derby

Despite seeing their perfect start to the season ended after three consecutive wins, R&F still top the table with a one-point lead over SIPG and Shandong Luneng.

“No matter if you watched this game in the stadium or in front of the TV, I believe you’ve truly enjoyed it because it is a game with good quality and excellent goals. A game like this shows the charisma of the CSL,” said R&F coach Dragan Stojkovic.

Watch: Shanghai SIPG 2 Shandong Luneng 1 highlights

“Actually I’m not very happy. It seemed that we deserved three points because we created more chances. Although I don’t know the possession percentage, we dominated the game most of the time. Maybe you all think that we’ve had a good result, but I don’t think it’s enough.”

Luiz Felipe Scolari denies Guangzhou Evergrande exit rumours after fake report of sick relative

After the significant expenditure made by the likes of SIPG and Shenhua this season, R&F are the surprise early pacesetters having finished sixth last season, 24 points behind champions Evergrande.

“There is still a big gap. If you compare the two teams, R&F is a small building, while Evergrande is a skyscraper and we like to look up to them,” added Stojkovic.

Watch: Jiangsu Suning 1 Chongqing Lifan 2 highlights

“I don’t want to brag how well we played, the fact is our players have prepared well physically and their ability is quite even. Evergrande should feel very happy to get a draw and I think the head coaches of Shandong and SIPG will both be happy.”

Watch: Beijing Guoan 1 Henan Jianye 0 highlights