Guangzhou (AFP) – Luiz Felipe Scolari’s rampant Guangzhou Evergrande won the Chinese Super League (CSL) for the seventh time in a row on Sunday and with two games to spare.
In what is expected to be the decorated Brazilian coach’s last season in charge, Guangzhou scored twice in three minutes in the first half as they thrahed Guizhou Zhicheng 5-1 at home.
Scolari, whose contract is up at the end of the season after two successful years in southern China, was banned from the bench as his side romped to the victory they needed to wrap up the CSL title once more.
Under the 68-year-old Scolari, who took over from the Italian Fabio Cannavaro in 2015, Guangzhou have cemented their place as the best team in China.
They went out of the Asian Champions League in the quarter-finals to domestic rivals Shanghai SIPG, but they have once more dominated the CSL.
Guangzhou suffered a minor wobble when Brazilian international Paulinho left for Barcelona in August, but Andre Villas-Boas’s Shanghai — the nearest challengers in the CSL — failed to capitalise.
The home fans came to see a coronation on Sunday and Gao Lin headed home unmarked at a packed Tianhe Stadium to start the party on 15 minutes.
Two minutes later Guangzhou were 2-0 up as Guizhou made a mess of things in defence and another Brazilian, the forward Alan, waltzed through the non-existent backline.
The visitors pulled a goal back midway through the first half but Guangzhou’s prolific Brazilian striker Ricardo Goulart put the game out of sight with a deft header in the 52nd minute that bounced off a Guizhou player and into the net.
Substitute Yu Hanchao made it 4-1 to the champions after another defensive mistake and another Brazilian, Muriqui, poked in number five.
Shanghai were beaten 2-1 at home by Guangzhou R&F to leave them nine points behind Evergrande with just two games left and only the FA Cup now to play for, having exited the Champions League in the semi-finals.
Villas-Boas’ side face fierce local rivals Shanghai Shenhua next month over two legs.
There is unprecedented interest in football in China, with the government striving to raise the level of the underperforming national team and domestic sides splashing out cash to bring in big-name foreign coaches and players.