Marouane Fellaini's Match-Winner Earns Shandong Its First Chinese Super League Title In Over A Decade
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HONG KONG - Marouane Fellaini was on target as Shandong Taishan defeated Hebei FC 2-0 in Guangzhou on Sunday to clinch the club's first Chinese Super League title in over a decade.
The former Manchester United midfielder netted from close range in the 21st minute to send Shandong on their way to the win they needed to take an unassailable lead at the top of the standings and claim the trophy for the first time since 2010.
Xu Xin added a second seven minutes from time as Shandong moved onto 48 points from 19 games. With three matches remaining and a gap of 10 points over second placed Guangzhou FC, Hao Wei's side cannot be overhauled.
Wearing the captain's armband, Fellaini put Shandong in front when Hebei goalkeeper Bao Yaxiong was unable to do enough to stop Jin Jingdao's clipped ball from the right, leaving the ex-Belgium midfielder to bounce his miss-hit shot over the line.
Shandong Taishan on the way to seal their CSL champion: within 40 mins, they lead Hebei FC 2:0. Marouane Fellaini scored the 1st goal. After a victory Shandong will win the champion with 2 matches remaining. pic.twitter.com/FvSIsau93Z— China Sports Vision 2050 (@CSV2050) December 26, 2021
Seven minutes from time Fellaini was involved again, this time seeing Bao save his header only for Xu to score on the rebound and put the seal on Shandong's win.
Shandong's title marks the end of an era dominated by clubs largely backed by China's big spending property developers. Guangzhou, owned by embattled developers Evergrande, won eight of the 10 titles since Shandong last prevailed, with Shanghai Port and the now-defunct Jiangsu Suning the other clubs to claim the Chinese Super League crown.
Jiangsu collapsed after winning last year's title while Guangzhou have seen many of their foreign players plus Italian coach Fabio Cannavaro leave this season as financial difficulties have hit hard. Now led by former China midfielder Zheng Zhi, Guangzhou defeated Slaven Bilić's Beijing Guoan 1-0 on Sunday through Deng Hanwen's first half goal to remain in second, ahead of Shanghai Port on goals scored.
Shanghai also won, downing Shenzhen FC 3-1, taking the lead through Li Zhurun only to go into the interval level after Frank Acheampong equalized for Shenzhen. Li Shenyuan and Oscar struck to ensure Ivan Leko's side recorded a victory that keeps them on track to qualify for next year's Asian Champions League.
Changchun Yatai maintained their push for a top three finish when Brazilian duo Erik and Júnior Negrão scored to earn Chen Yang's team a 2-1 win over Guangzhou City.
Matches in the championship rounds of the Chinese Super League are currently being played in a bio-secure bubble in Guangzhou to limit travel as a result of the pandemic.
(Reporting by Michael Church; Editing by Peter Graff)