Big words: World Cup winner Luiz Felipe Scolari hails Guangzhou Evergrande as ‘the best I’ve ever seen’
Brazilian midfielder Paulinho scores twice as Chinese Super League champions begin defence of title with 2-1 home win over Beijing Guoan
World Cup-winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari hailed Guangzhou Evergrande’s display against Beijing Guoan on Sunday as “the best I’ve ever seen” as the Chinese Super League champions began what is set to be their most difficult title defence with a hard-fought 2-1 home win.
Brazilian midfielder Paulinho scored twice, including a 87th-minute winner, as Guangzhou joined Shanghai SIPG, Shanghai Shenhua, neighbours Guangzhou R&F and Shandong Luneng as opening weekend winners as the Super League finally got underway following a record-breaking preseason transfer window.
But while SIPG splashed the cash on Oscar and Shenhua brought in Carlos Tevez on a mega contract, Guangzhou began the new season with virtually the side that claimed a record-breaking sixth straight domestic crown last season with Brazilian trio Alan, Paulinho and Ricardo Goulart along with Colombian Jackson Martinez retained as Scolari’s overseas players.
The only major business for Guangzhou saw South Korean defender Kim Hyung-il arrive on a six-month contract to cover injured compatriot Kim Young-gwon as Guangzhou’s allocated Asian player.
Watch: Guangzhou Evergrande 2 Beijing Guoan 1 highlights
And against Beijing it was Paulinho who did the business with a 19th-minute opener, which was cancelled out by a first-half penalty from Turkish striker Burak Yilmaz, only for the former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder to snatch the win with three minutes remaining after first Zhao Hejing for the visitors and then Guangzhou captain Zheng Zhi had been sent off.
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“I want to praise our players and fans,” said Scolari, who guided Brazil to World Cup success in 2002.
“Firstly our fans fought with us until the last minute and secondly, I’ve taken up football for 50 years and coached many teams, but the spirit our team shown, especially the leadership spirit showed by Zheng Zhi, is the best I’ve ever seen until now.”
Both SIPG and Shenhua underlined their credentials to end Guangzhou’s spell of dominance , which has also delivered AFC Champions League wins in 2013 and 2015, with convincing wins at the weekend.
SIPG made it four wins out of four this year with a 5-1 comeback win over Changchun Yatai on Saturday having posted three wins in the AFC Champions League, before Tevez scored and provided two assists as Gus Poyet’s Shenhua brushed aside 2016 second-place finishers Jiangsu Suning 4-0 on Sunday.
Watch: Shanghai Shenhua 4 Jiangsu Suning 0 highlights
“I still need to adapt the rhythm，and take it step by step,” said Argentinian Tevez after netting a 35th-minute penalty and providing two assists for Colombian captain Giovanni Moreno on his Super League debut.
“I get along with the Chinese players, of course we still need time to get to know each other better, but we are already in a good relationship now. We need to stick together to build a team that can win championships.”
The Super League continues on Friday as Jiangsu take on Tianjin Teda and SIPG entertain Yanbian Funde, while on Saturday Shenhua take on Tianjin Quanjian and Guangzhou Evergrande travel to Shandong.
“I am happy for Tevez,” said Shenhua’s Uruguayan coach Poyet. “It is very important to score a goal, all of our goals were related to him, but of course, he needs the whole team to help him become better.”