Chinese Super League

Chinese Super League round-up: Wu Lei on fire as Shanghai SIPG continue their tearaway start with crushing win at Guangzhou R&F

The hat-trick record of last season is already destined to go after just three weeks of the new season as the goals continue to flood in

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 March, 2018, 4:06pm
UPDATED : Monday, 19 March, 2018, 4:11pm

The Chinese Super League season might only be three games in but early signs suggest that it might take the same shape as the top flights in England, Spain, Germany and France.

Manchester City are 16 points clear in the English Premier League, Bayern Munich have a 17-point cushion at the top of the Bundesliga, that’s the same gap as PSG in Ligue 1, while Barcelona have a healthy 11-point lead in La Liga.

Shanghai SIPG don’t have that gap yet, but “yet” is the key word.

The Shanghai side and Shandong Luneng are neck-and-neck with three wins from three but Vitor Pereira’s men have a much healthier goal difference of 13.

They have scored 15 times this season and conceded just twice.

That they let in both those goals in the opening ten minutes on Sunday afternoon when they travelled to Guangzhou to play R&F, one of the three teams with 100 per cent records going into the third round of matches.

SIPG’s response was to score three before half-time to lead at the whistle, adding two more in the second half.

The first big test of the league season was passed emphatically. Three more points and the five goal per game average maintained.

They can’t keep up this frightening form. Surely?

The signs are good. Things have not been disrupted by the presence of a new manager, probably in part because he has worked successfully with Hulk before at Porto.

SIPG have already shown that they can play badly and win ­– a sign of championship form – by coming away with three points in the Shanghai derby. It is hard to gauge anything from a derby as Tianjin Teda’s win over Tianjin Quanjian this weekend showed, as did the opening day defeat of the champions in Guangzhou derby opening day. But it’s telling that SIPG have won their derby when the other teams chasing Champions League spots and silverware lost in theirs.

The other positive is that they came from behind to win on Sunday.

They go into the international break top of their AFC Champions League group and top of the CSL, unbeaten in both.

It’s fitting that it is freescoring SIPG who are setting the pace as it is already a season that has become typified by goals and a hatful of hat-tricks. There have been six in three weeks so far when there were only seven in the whole of last season ­– that’s 24 games as opposed to 240. This season has already matched 2016 and bested the four in 2015. At this rate this season will comfortably surpass the record of 11 trebles scored in both 2013 and 2014.

SIPG’s Wu Lei has scored two himself, including his four goals in Guangzhou on Sunday, which made him the first Chinese player to hit four goals in a CSL game since 2006.

This decade has generally seen a steady upward curve in goals per game. There were 2.42 goals per game in 2010, 2.35 per game in 2011, 2.63 in 2012 and 2013 and 2.75 in 2014 when Elkeson scored a record 28 goals, another record that will be in jeopardy this season if goals continue apace. His SIPG teammate Wu Lei is on seven goals already, well on course to better the 20 he scored last season.

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Goals per game rose dramatically to 2.8 in 2015, dropped to still high 2.67 in 2016 and leapt to 3.05 goals per game last season, and everyone has collectively started where they left off in their first three games.

In the 24 matches there have been 83 goals and at an average of nearly 3.5 per game.

There have only been two draws and no games have finished goalless. The top scorers sit at the top of the table.

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SIPG have already gone better than last season. They topped the league for the first two weeks of 2017 and did not get another week at the summit. We will see how long they can stay there when the league resumes on March 30.

Stray gameweek three observations

Things are going from bad to worse for the trio of Yannick Carrasco, Jose Fonte and Nico Gaitan. A Cedric Bakambu-less Beijing Guoan beat them 3-0 on Friday for a third defeat on the spin. Gaitan was also knocked unconscious when he ran into a Guoan defender off the ball.

They will hope things change under the incoming manager now Ma Lin has been replaced by former German international Bernd Schuster. The former Real Madrid manager has been out of the game for the last few years but his connection to Atletico Madrid, where he played for three years, likely had some role in his selection.

Guangzhou Evergrande laboured to a 1-0 win over Henan Jianye. The champions are unpredictable this season but grinding out wins will go a long way to keeping them in the hunt for an eighth title.

Gameweek three results

Dalian Yifang 0-3 Beijing Guoan; Hebei CFFC 1-2 Shandong Luneng; Chongqing Lifan 4-1 Jiangsu Suning; Guangzhou R&F 2-5 Shanghai SIPG; Changchun Yatai 1-1 Beijing Renhe; Guangzhou Evergrande 1-0 Henan Jianye; Guizhou Zhicheng 0-1 Shanghai Shenhua; Tianjin Teda 3-2 Tianjin Quanjian.