Anderson Talisca and Paulinho make a point as Guangzhou Evergrande meet Shanghai SIPG in Chinese Super League face-off
Renato Augusto’s Beijing Guoan penalty miss means Tuesday’s rearranged matchday 13 fixture is now a must-win for hosts against seven-time title winners
Points win leagues. Not just grinding out a draw away to your title rivals, which is what Beijing Guoan thought they had done in Guangzhou on Friday night, sometimes it’s an actual point.
That’s what happened in the Chinese Super League on Friday in what was the biggest game of the season so far.
First played third. The champions against the league leaders. The two most fancied sides in the three horse title race.
— Football China (@footballchina) 15 September 2018
With the scores level, Guangzhou Evergrande midfielder Paulinho pointed to the corner that he thought his Brazilian international teammate Renato Augusto would hit his 61st minute spot-kick.
Teammate Zeng Cheng flung himself in that direction and the Guoan man duly went the same way and the ball was palmed away to safety.
Credit to the keeper for the save as the work still needed doing but as moments that define titles go – and there is usually one iconic image – the man who returned in the summer may have got it.
Anderson Talisca scored with the clock showing 90+1, moments after Cedric Bakambu had gone off with the visitors considering the job done.
The 25-year-old now has scored 13 goals in 11 games and this may prove to be the most important of the lot.
Winning at the last is one of the reasons why they have won the league for the last seven seasons and might well be adding an eighth star above their badge in the next couple of months.
They can take a massive step towards that on Tuesday when they play Shanghai SIPG in the rescheduled round 13 match that is sure to be unlucky for one of the teams.
That game was postponed as Shanghai braced for a typhoon that never came in August and if SIPG can’t win then it will be another season where their fans brace themselves for silverware that never comes.
Last season they finished second in the league to Evergrande and runners-up in the FA Cup as well as going to the semi-finals of the AFC Champions League.
That is only if they win the title, of course.
It was the other Brazilian summer arrival that made the difference to the scoreline.
In doing so they beat Evergrande at home in both knockout competitions and also away in the FA Cup.
They have to be confident that they can win what is essentially their cup final for this season.
The league leaders have never had a better chance to finally deliver the title that the club desires and their preparations for the game could not have been better – a 5-2 win away at Tianjin Teda on Friday night.
It was the fantastic four of golden boot front-runner Wu Lei, Oscar, Hulk and Elkeson that got the goals for the visitors and the awesome foursome became the oarsome foursome when they celebrated with a rowing-inspired routine.
They looked like they were having fun but it’s a serious business at the top of the table where only one point now separates the top three.
Guoan can have no regrets after Friday night despite being 0-0 at what they thought was full-time.
— Mads Davidsen (@MadsRDavidsen) 14 September 2018
Guoan made their point in taking the game to Evergrande at times – both sides had a goal disallowed after the referee consulted VAR – but the champions leapfrogged them in the table.
The Beijing side may be third but their home record is fearsome and their remaining games look largely winnable.
There may be three teams in this title race right now, but there could still be a dark horse in the running.
Shandong Luneng proved they are not done yet as they got back to winning ways against Guangzhou R&F thanks to goals from Graziano Pelle and Jin Jingdao.
They sit five points off the pace but face only SIPG of the teams above them in the run-in.
League leading SIPG still have to go to Beijing and Guangzhou, so even if they win on Tuesday it’s no guarantee of anything.
But it really is win or bust for the hosts.
And if they do get the victory it would be understandable for the SIPG players, suits and the Shanghai Stadium faithful to think that surely, finally, this is their year.
If you can’t dare to dream, what’s the point?