Chinese Super League

Shanghai SIPG stun Guangzhou Evergrande as Chinese Super League lives up to its name

  • SIPG now need just one point to make sure of the silverware
  • They should secure title against Beijing Renhe at Shanghai Stadium on Wednesday
PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 November, 2018, 4:03pm
UPDATED : Monday, 05 November, 2018, 4:03pm

It was billed as a title decider and it lived up to the billing. Shanghai SIPG are champions in waiting after beating the winners of the last seven league titles Guangzhou Evergrande in Guangzhou on Saturday night. The two best teams in the country duked it out in a game that was an advert for Chinese football. For all the bizarre bans, dodgy directives and anarchic administration, there is much to say for the standard of football on offer and this was the very best at their very best.

The visitors showed spirit to come back from 3-2 down at half-time and Wu Lei levelled the scores with his 26th league goal of the season, a figure that should nail on his golden boot credentials. The sides were not done there and the game finished a rather unbelievable 5-4 with Alan adding a penalty at the death to give the respectable ring to it for the soon to be deposed champions in front of a crowd of nearly 50,000.

Hulk’s odd goal in nine decided the game and to all intents and purposes the destination of the trophy. SIPG need just one point to make sure of the silverware and they can get that when they host Beijing Renhe at Shanghai Stadium on Wednesday.

Barring a collapse of cataclysmic proportions the Shanghai side’s role as perennial bridesmaids is no more. Fans can be forgiven for not counting their chickens just yet, though. Winning a trophy must have felt like it would never come and never more so than last season, where they reached the semis of the AFC Champions League, the Chinese FA Cup final and came second in the league. That’s the second time that they have finished runners-up since they were promoted from the second tier ahead of the 2013 season. They have made no secret of their ambitions, as proved by the big-name managers and even bigger name players that they have brought in to achieve that. That investment has finally paid off.

While the top of the table is all but done and dusted, the same cannot be said of the bottom. Guizhou Zhicheng are down after a second loss in a row ended their dreams but we are no closer to knowing who will join them in China League One next season. Any one of seven teams could yet drop down and it promises to be a nervy next two games.

We do know who is coming up. Shenzhen have joined Wuhan Zall in coming up after playing their own part in what was a day of high drama in south China. The hosts beat Zhejiang Yiteng 5-0 while Zhejiang Greentown’s failure to win at Meizhou Hakka meant that Shenzen leapfrogged their rivals on the final day of the season and took the remaining automatic promotion spot.

The newcomers should be hopeful that they can cut it in the CSL. Both of this season’s newly promoted clubs have stayed up and the champions in waiting are only playing their fifth season in the top flight, not to mention that Evergrande won the title in their first season when they came up so could we see Shenzhen or Wuhan Zall as winners in years to come?

Is this the end of the Guangzhou Evergrande era? Surely it means the end for Fabio Cannavaro after the he failed to deliver the league title that they have done for seven years on the spin.

Keeping hold of Anderson Talisca and Paulinho is key to the fortunes of whoever is in charge and Cannavaro may yet get the chance to try again. He could reasonably make the case that if he had both of those players for the full season rather than just the second half of it, we would be very likely looking at a league table that had Evergrande at their usual spot at the summit.

And what next for Shanghai SIPG? They will enter the AFC Champions League as champions and their desire will be to win it after coming so close in 2017. Presumably they will keep hold of Portuguese boss Vitor Pereira and his lusophone attacking trident of Hulk, Oscar and Elkeson. But is it now finally the time that Wu Lei goes overseas to test himself at a higher level?

Wu will be the outright winner of the golden boot and a league champion, that more than delivers on his promise to win something with SIPG and turning 27 later this month there is arguably no better time to go. Should he decide to take the leap then there will be no shortage of suitors lining up for his signature.