Guangzhou win fifth straight Chinese Super League title
BEIJING: Guangzhou Evergrande won their fifth straight Chinese Super League title on Saturday after a Brazilian double gave them a 2-0 win at Beijing Guoan on a nervy final day of the season.
The victory, courtesy of goals from Ricardo Goulart and Paulinho at the end of each half, left them on 67 points, two clear of second-placed Shanghai SIPG, whose 2-1 home win over relegation-threatened Liaoning Whowin proved in vain.
Thanks to a vastly superior goal difference, Guangzhou knew only a point was required at the Workers' Stadium in the Chinese capital against a Beijing side needing a win to guarantee a top-three finish and a place in next season's Asian Champions League.
A minute before halftime Guangzhou, whose only league defeat this season came at Henan Jianye in April, were awarded a penalty when Beijing's South Korean midfielder Ha Dae-sung was adjudged to have handled in the area.
Goulart made no mistake with the spot kick to register his 19th goal of the campaign and send Luiz Felipe Scolari's side in front at the break just as Shanghai had gone 2-1 up at home to Liaoning, thanks to Cai Huikang.
Shanghai needed Beijing to score twice to have any hope of pinching the title and they thought they had one goal when Dejan Damjanovic put the ball in the Guangzhou net only for the effort to be ruled out for offside.
Paulinho then made the title safe three minutes from time when the midfielder stabbed home from close range after Beijing failed to clear a ball into the area.
It was a first Chinese title for former Brazil boss Scolari, who joined the club in June to replace former Italian World Cup-winning captain Fabio Cannavaro.
"It was a fierce match," 2002 World Cup-winning coach Scolari was quoted as saying by Xinhua.
"We gave our opponents some chances at the beginning of the match but we found our rhythm and seized the chances.
"We deserve to be the champion. We are definitely a great team. We only had one draw in 10 away games since I have been the head coach."
Guangzhou will next travel to Dubai to take on Al-Ahli in the first leg of the Asian Champions League final on Nov. 7 looking for their second continental crown after winning the trophy in 2013.
Beijing's defeat means Shandong Luneng join Guangzhou and Shanghai in the Champions League next season.
The battle to avoid joining Shanghai Shenxin in relegation from the burgeoning 16-team league, which signed an eight-billion Chinese Yuan (0.82 billion pound) television rights deal for the next five years this week, also went down to the wire.
Guizhou Renhe eventually suffering the unwanted fate when they conceded a 90th-minute equaliser by Hungarian Akos Elek to draw 2-2 at home to Changchun Yatai.