Shandong Luneng emerge from the shadows to lead Chinese Super League after beating Changchun Yatai
Papiss Cisse scores twice as Felix Magath’s side maintain 100 per cent record with 2-0 win on Sunday to top table alongside Guangzhou R&F
Shandong Luneng may have slipped under the radar in the build up to the new Chinese Super League season having only just avoided relegation last year, but Felix Magath’s charges no longer have that luxury as they sit proudly at the top of the table after Sunday’s 2-0 win over Changchun Yatai maintained a 100 per cent record.
Papiss Cisse scored twice in the second half at Development Area Stadium in Changchun as Shandong, who were the last team other than six-time defending champions Guangzhou Evergrande to win the domestic title in 2010, added to earlier wins over Tianjin Teda and Luiz Felipi Scolari’s side.
Shandong share top spot with Guangzhou R&F, who beat Yanbian Funde 1-0 on Saturday, with Shanghai SIPG and Evergrande just three points off the early pace.
“We were in a difficult situation in the first half, but we didn’t lag behind after 45 minutes and that made us feel very lucky. We found our tempo in the second half, however, we had still been struggling before taking the lead,” said Magath, who was appointed in June 2016 and was in charge as Shandong avoided relegation by two points last season.
Watch: Changchun Yatai 0 Shandong Luneng 2 highlights
“I want to single out Dai Lin and Gil to praise. Gil had been with the national team and just got back, but he is very professional. Also I want to praise [Graziano] Pelle as well. He is not only a striker, but also ran endlessly for the whole team. It was because of his efforts that Cisse got the chance to score.”
Defender Gil was part of the Brazil squad which became the first team to qualify for the 2018 Fifa World Cup after hosts Russia after beating both Uruguay and Paraguay last week, and like both Italian Pelle and Senegalese striker Cisse, is in his second season in China with Shandong.
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Fellow Brazilian Diego Tardelli is currently sidelined through injury, but makes up a settled group of foreign players having been with Shandong since 2015.
“I expected this game to be very difficult because the condition of the field is not very good. We tried our best and this was a very exciting game,” said former Newcastle United striker Cisse, who already has three goals this season having found the net on five occasions in 2016.
Watch: Beijing Guoan 2 Shanghai Shenhua 1 highlights
“Of course we are very happy to win three games in a row as all that we’ve done is to win to get points.”
With Evergrande beating SIPG 3-2 on Saturday, Shanghai Shenhua missed out on their chances to move up to third place after losing 2-1 to Beijing Guoan on Sunday.
Turkish striker Burak Yilmaz continued his strong start to the season with both goals to take his 2017 tally to four as Beijing recorded a first win of the campaign to move up to eighth, with Gus Poyet’s Shenhua seventh with four points from three games.
“I think this is was a very rhythmic game and it deserves to be a national derby. As you can see, it’s a hard job to be players and referees. We weren’t as good as our opponents in the first half, maybe it is because it is their home ground, but after we equalised, we played better,” said Poyet.
“Personally, I think we had the chance to win this game in the second half, but they managed to score again.
“I am very upset that we didn’t win. Now what we need to do is digest this defeat and move on because the season is very long.”