Defending champions Guangzhou Evergrande moved to the top of the Chinese Super League standings for the first time this season as Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side handed Henan Jianye a 4-2 defeat to vault over local rivals Guangzhou R&F at the summit.
Ricardo Goulart scored a hat trick — including two penalties — as the six-time Chinese Super League winners moved onto 16 points and ahead of R&F, who lost to Guizhou Zhicheng on Friday evening, on goal difference.
“Today was a very entertaining and intense match,” Scolari said. “We grasped the opportunity when we needed to score. I think the result is consistent with the performance.”
Goulart gave Evergrande the lead from the penalty spot after just 12 minutes only for Eddie Gomez to level the scores just four minutes later.
Another Goulart penalty restored Evergrande’s lead six minutes before the break and Zhang Linpeng doubled his side’s advantage a minute ahead of the interval. Goulart completed his hat trick 16 minutes from time before Christian Bassogog claimed a last-minute consolation for Henan.
The win was Guangzhou’s third in a row in the league and their fourth in all competitions following Tuesday’s 6-0 thrashing of Hong Kong side Eastern in the Asian Champions League, but Scolari denied his team’s performances had improved in recent weeks.
“I can’t say that we are increasing the level of our performance,” he said. “You could see that in the first four rounds our opponents were strong sides such as Shanghai SIPG, Shandong and R&F. They were all tough games, and now our results are also within my expectation.”
Hebei CFFC moved up to sixth, meanwhile, with a 4-0 thrashing of Tianjin Teda, with Ezequiel Lavezzi scoring twice as Manuel Pellegrini’s side bounced back from last week’s defeat against Shanghai Shenhua.
Shenhua’s game against Shandong Luneng was postponed, meaning Gustavo Poyet’s side dropped down to seventh with Beijing Guoan moving above their bitter rivals thanks to a 4-2 win over Liaoning Whowin.
Yanbian Funde won their first game of the season as Jin Bo’s goal sunk Changchun Yatai while Jiangsu Suning‘s poor run continued with a 2-2 draw against last season’s second division champions Tianjin Quanjian that leaves Choi Yong-soo’s team rooted to the bottom of the standings.
Shanghai SIPG take on Chongqing Yatai on Sunday evening and victory for Andre Villas-Boas’ team would take the big-spending club level on points with the Guangzhou clubs.
Michael Church has written about Asian football for more than 20 years and mainly covers the Chinese game for ESPN FC. Twitter: @michaelrgchurch