Shanghai SIPG stay top of Chinese Super League despite surprise draw
Shanghai SIPG retained their position at the top of the Chinese Super League standings despite being held to a 1-1 draw by bottom side Guizhou Zhicheng, after Shandong Luneng and Guangzhou Evergrande were also held to draws on Saturday.
Shandong, who started the day in second place level with SIPG, shared the spoils with Tianjian Quanjian in a 1-1 draw while defending champions Guangzhou drew 2-2 with Hebei China Fortune to remain in fourth place, two points adrift of the lead duo.
Beijing Guoan are in third place, one point behind SIPG and Shandong on 19 points after drawing with Guangzhou R&F on Friday evening.
Bottom side Guizhou took the lead against SIPG in the 15th minute as Gregorio Manzano's side exploited the league leaders' poor defending at corners when Mario Suarez headed home Tjarron Cherry's centre.
Wu Lei continued his rich scoring vein of form to level the scores in the 33rd minute when he clipped Oscar's through ball home, but Vitor Pereira's side only narrowly avoided a third defeat in four league games due to Babacar Trawallay's missed penalty midway through the second half.
"This was a very difficult game because we have been playing and travelling a lot recently," said Pereira, whose side face Japan's Kashima Antlers in the second leg of the AFC Champions League round of 16 on Wednesday.
"I know my players have tried their best on the pitch and I also tried my best to win this game, so I can't ask anyone to do any more. We are really tired. Very tired. So, even though only taking one point isn't a very good result, in this case it isn't too bad."
Graziano Pelle scored six minutes into injury time for Shandong to deny Tianjin Quanjian only their fourth win of the campaign after Alexandre Pato had given Paulo Sousa's side the lead while Ricardo Goulart was on target twice for Guangzhou in their 2-2 draw with Hebei.
The Brazilian put Fabio Cannavaro's team in front in the 18th minute but goals from Ezequiel Lavezzi and Hernanes gave Hebei the lead only for Goulart to net just after the hour mark to ensure the teams took a point each.
Shanghai Shenhua, meanwhile, pulled themselves to within three points of the leaders as goals from Fredy Guarin and Gao Di earned Wu Jingui's side a 2-1 win over Chongqing Lifan to leave them in fifth place, while Tianjin Teda handed Changchun Yatai a 1-0 defeat.
Jiangsu Suning take on Dalian Yifang on Sunday knowing a win against Bernd Schuster's side would move them to within one point of the summit as the battle for pole position intensifies ahead of the World Cup break, which starts after next weekend's round of matches.
Michael Church has written about Asian football for more than 20 years and mainly covers the Chinese game for ESPN FC. Twitter: @michaelrgchurch