Guangzhou Evergrande extended their advantage at the Chinese Super League summit to seven points today with a 3-1 win at Hangzhou Greentown. Brazilian pair Cleo and Muriqui and China international Gao Lin were the men on target for the visitors at Yihu Mihu Stadium as the promoted team moved onto 31 points - seven ahead of second-placed Beijing Guoan.
Cleo fired the visitors in front seven minutes before the break and Gao Lin doubled their advantage with a superb long-range effort seven minutes after the interval. Muriqui made it 3-0 by tapping home Cleo's inviting cross from close range seven minutes from time before Ba Li netted a stoppage-time consolation for the hosts.
Ba went close to opening the scoring after ten minutes when he found himself through on goalkeeper Yang Jun, only to see Korea Republic midfielder Cho Won-Hee make a last-gasp intervention. Uruguayan striker Paulo Pezzolano called Yang into action two minutes before the half-hour, curling a powerful shot from the edge of the box but the keeper made an excellent save.
The deadlock was broken at the other end soon after when Gao provided a well-weighted pass for Cleo to blast home. Gao added a second shortly after the break, rounding Jin Pengxiang before clipping past goalkeeper Jiang Bo with a 25-yard left-footed drive.
The hosts almost halved the deficit midway through the second half but Yang Hao's close-range bicycle kick flew just wide. Guangzhou made the result safe towards the end when Cleo sent compatriot Muriqui clear and he coolly slotted past Jiang.
Ba grabbed a stoppage-time consolation for the hosts with a fierce low shot after he latched onto a long cross from Honduran forward Luis Ramirez. But it was too little, too late to worry the visitors.
"Cleo's first goal made a big difference in a hard match, paving a way for our victory," said Guangzhou coach Lee Jang-Soo. "Our counter-attack strategy in the second half also proved successful."
The southern side have yet to lose a game in their 13 matches in the domestic league this season. "Quite a few players got injured recently and we couldn't field our best players," said Hangzhou boss Wu Jingui." "Hangzhou are in a difficult situation but we must try to overcome this."
Hangzhou finished the weekend on 21 points and in sixth place in the 16-team league. Second-placed Beijing slipped further off the pace as they could only manage a 1-1 draw at Shaanxi Baorong.
Elsewhere, Korea Republic defender Ko Jae-Sung scored the only goal of the game midway through the second half as Nanchang Bayi edged Shanghai Shenhua 1-0 at Shanghai Hongkou Stadium, while Shandong Luneng moved up to third thanks to a 1-0 home win over bottom team Shenzhen Kingway.
In other games, Chengdu Blades went down 2-0 to Henan Jianye, Changchun Yatai and Liaoning Zhongyu played out a goalless draw, Tianjin Teda drew 1-1 with Qingdao Zhongneng and Jiangsu Shuntian thrashed Dalian Shide 4-0.