Marcello Lippi's free-scoring Guangzhou Evergrande took their first step to a domestic and Asian treble Sunday, clinching the Chinese Super League with a 4-2 win at second-placed Shandong Luneng.
The former FIFA World Cup™ winning coach looks set to seal a dream first full season in charge, with the AFC Champions League final and domestic cup semi-finals looming.
The mega-rich outfit sealed their third domestic league title in a row courtesy of goals from Zhao Xuri, Rong Hao, Gao Lin and Zheng Zhi. Zhao scored in the sixth minute, but the teams were level soon after when Gilberto Macena drew level for Shandong.
Rong and Gao reclaimed the lead for Guangzhou with goals either side of half time, before Zheng scored midway through the second half. Shandong's Roda Antar scored a consolation for the hosts with 12 minutes remaining.
Guangzhou, who have lost only once this season, claimed the title with four games to go. Lippi's men have been in sizzling form in recent weeks, bagging 20 goals in their last five games in both domestic and Asian competition.
The Guangdong outfit have a plus-53 goal difference in the league, 33 ahead of their nearest competitor.
Key players for the side this season include Brazilian aces Muriqui and Elkeson, and Argentine Dario Conca. Elkeson is the league's top scorer with 23 goals. Lippi has rotated his squad in recent weeks, particularly for the league games, in a bid to ease pressure on players in the face of increasing fixture congestion.
Guangzhou recently became the first Chinese team to reach the Asian final since it was revamped as the AFC Champions League in 2003. Dalian were the last Chinese side to get this far, in the 1998 Asian Club Championship, and China has not had a regional winner since Liaoning in 1990.