Shanghai SIPG slip in Chinese Super League title race; Capello's losing start
Guangzhou R&F's Li Tixiang and He Fuan of Shanghai SIPG were both sent off in first-half stoppage time as Andre Villas-Boas' side lost ground on Chinese Super League leaders Guangzhou Evergrande on Sunday evening.
Eran Zahavi gave Dragan Stojkovic's team the lead after 30 minutes before Hulk levelled the scores in the 45th minute, with Oscar's response to a challenge seconds later prompting a brawl at the end of the half that resulted in Li and He picking up a red card each.
The 1-1 draw leaves Evergrande four points clear at the top of the table after 13 games as Luiz Felipe Solari's side picked up a 2-0 win over Guizhou Zhicheng on Saturday.
"It was a very difficult game and 1-1 is quite disappointing," Villas-Boas said. "We came here for the win and hoped to keep the pressure on Evergrande. However, a draw makes the gap with Evergrande even bigger.
"But I am satisfied with my players. They tried their best, and gave us a very good match."
R&F players had argued with the officials that Hulk's equaliser should not have stood and Villas-Boas agreed his side had been fortunate to pull level.
"That controversial goal was offside," he said. "But the call belongs to the referee. I can only say R&F were unlucky.
"Oscar is not a dirty player. I believe he was hoping to show some passion and fighting spirit. The match was very intense, and he wanted to help the team. But of course I believe this kind of conflict should be avoided."
Fabio Capello, meanwhile, made a losing start to his new life with Jiangsu Suning as the Nanjing-based club slipped to a 1-0 defeat against Changchun Yatai, with Yang Boyu scoring an own goal 16 minutes into the game to leave the Italian's team in 15th place in the standings.
Diego Tardelli scored twice after Papiss Cisse had given Shandong Luneng the lead as Felix Magath's team handed Lioaning Whowin a 3-0 defeat.
The win keeps Magath's team in fourth place, five points behind Hebei CFFC in third but with a game in hand over Manuel Pellegrini's team.
Burak Yilmaz and Renato Augusto, meanwhile, were on target for Beijing Guoan as they notched up a 2-0 win over Tianjin Teda that moved the capital club up to seventh in the standings.
Michael Church has written about Asian football for more than 20 years and mainly covers the Chinese game for ESPN FC. Twitter: @michaelrgchurch