Hulk, Wu Lei strike for SIPG vs. Hebei; Evergrande held to draw by Shenhua
Shanghai SIPG opened up a five-point gap at the top of the Chinese Super League table on Friday as they handed Hebei China Fortune a 2-0 defeat .
SIPG racked up a league-record sixth straight win to maintain their perfect start to the campaign with Hulk and Wu Lei finding the back of the net for last year's runners-up against Hebei.
But it was Yan Junling who earned the praise of coach Vitor Pereira for denying Ezequiel Lavezzi 11 minutes before half-time, when the goalkeeper kept out a spot kick with the game still scoreless.
"Yan Junling's a top goalkeeper and I'm lucky to have him," Pereira said. "In training, he's full of the passion of a younger player, and in training with Ian Walker, he has made rapid progress.
"He's like an 18-year-old who just wants to improve. He's a good player and he has the right personality necessary to be a good goalkeeper."
Pereira also praised his side as having played "beautifully" and taking the right approach.
"I really enjoyed today's game," he said. "We created many opportunities and I saw the strong side of the team. This is the team I want to see. I'm very proud of their performance."
Hulk put SIPG in front from the penalty spot in first-half injury time after Oscar had been upended by Ren Hang, and Wu doubled his side's advantage 12 minutes from time when he scored from close range at the second attempt.
Meanwhile, Guangzhou Evergrande were held to a 2-2 draw by Shanghai Shenhua after Xu Yougang's late equaliser.
Zhu Jianrong put Shenhua in front after a goalless first half, only for Ricardo Goulart and Nemanja Gudelj to score within two minutes to give Evergrande the lead by the 68th minute.
Xu, however, levelled in the 72nd minute to move Shenhua onto 11 points from six games and keep Wu Jingui's side two points adrift of Evergrande in third place.
There was disappointment, too, for Tianjin Quanjian, who drew 1-1 against Jiangsu Suning when Richmond Boakye scored six minutes from time to cancel out Wang Yongpo's fifth-minute opener.
Michael Church has written about Asian football for more than 20 years and mainly covers the Chinese game for ESPN FC. Twitter: @michaelrgchurch