Evergrande seal Chinese Super League title, again

Updated 2017-10-24 10:32:55 Global Times

Guangzhou Evergrande sealed the Chinese Super League (CSL) title for the seventh consecutive time with a 5-1 thumping of Guizhou Zhicheng at the Tianhe Stadium on Sunday night.

Evergrande have won the title every season since earning promotion to the Chinese top flight as second-division champions in 2010.

Only Dalian Shide have won more top-flight titles - eight - in Jia-A, before the launching of the CSL.

Leading second-placed Shanghai SIPG by six points and nurturing -better head-to-head results as the rivals approached the third-from-last fixture, Evergrande sealed the title with the comfortable win.

Joyous night

Some 49,736 fans in the 58,500--capacity stadium didn't have to wait long as the hosts took a 2-0 lead 17 minutes into the match. China striker Gao Lin headed home a Ricardo Goulart cross from the left in the 15th minute, his 100th goal for the club. Two minutes later, -Brazilian Goulart got the ball from careless Guizhou defender Yang Ting and passed it to compatriot Alan, who rounded goalkeeper Su Boyang before doubling the hosts' lead.

The visitors pulled one goal back right before the half-hour mark through midfielder Wang Fan. Both sides failed to rewrite the scoreline despite chances before halftime. Seven minutes after the break, Goulart stretched their lead when his header from the corner kick bounced off Guizhou defender Du Wei into goal. Substitute Yu Hanchao made it 4-1 in the 77th minute after -another -defensive mistake by Guizhou -players. Another Brazilian, Muriqui, poked in the fifth goal in stoppage time.

"The title win is the best reward for our efforts in the whole year," Gao said during a pitch-side interview. "The league is becoming more and more competitive each year, but we finally made it."

Guangzhou heroes

Gao has been pivotal in Evergrande's eight successive league titles, including the second division before promotion to the CSL.

"I'm feeling like a twin brother of the team and our blood is mixed together," said Gao when asked how it felt to be a key member of the team for such a long time. "I hope I can extend my career in Guangzhou just like our big brother Zheng Zhi has been doing."

Veteran midfielder Zheng, who missed the match with injury, is now China's most successful player with a record nine top-flight titles.

Zheng won the CSL title in its maiden season with Shenzhen Jianlibao in 2004, before winning again two years later with Shandong Luneng.

After two seasons with Charlton Athletic and one with Celtic, he returned to Chinese soccer to join Evergrande in 2010.

"It's incredible to win seven titles in a row," said the captain for both club and country. "I'm proud of all my teammates. And we should be proud."

Fans were generous with their praise for Zheng.

"When Zheng returned to China as a 30-year-old in 2010, many thought he was just coming back to laze away the final days of his career," one fan wrote on Dongqiudi, a popular soccer site in China. "And now seven years later, he's still playing a vital part in Evergrande's seventh consecutive league title."

Luneng fans rue the day Zheng returned to China.

"It is said Luneng were his first choice when he came back in 2010," a fan wrote. "But the club thought he was too old and perhaps they were afraid that young player Wang Yongpo would not get enough playing time if Zheng joined the team, and so they did not sign him. What an irony!"

All praise

Chinese fans and media sang praises for Evergrande's feat of winning seven successive CSL titles.

"Evergrande are still waiting for their next challenger," wrote the Titan Sports, China's most popular sports newspaper.

National sports channel CCTV 5 congratulated Evergrande for their "unprecedented" seventh title in a row. And despite "an imperfect season" - Evergrande were knocked out of the Asian Champions League and the Chinese FA Cup - "the CSL is getting more and more beautiful for its diversity and all kinds of possibilities," the channel said on its Sina Weibo account.

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