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Guangzhou R&F continue perfect start in Chinese Super League

Dragan Stojkovic took over at Guangzhou in 2015.

Guangzhou R&F boss Dragan Stojkovic rounded on the growing number of Chinese Super League coaches choosing to lessen the impact of regulations governing the fielding of players under the age of 23 after seeing his side defeat Changchun Yatai 1-0 to join Shanghai SIPG and Shandong Luneng at the top of the early standings.

Junior Urso scored the only goal of the game as R&F followed up last week's victory over Tianjin Quanjian to move onto six points and level with Shanghai SIPG and Shandong Luneng.

But the former Nagoya Grampus Eight coach took the opportunity to draw attention to a growing trend that has seen coaches withdraw players early in the game in an attempt to circumnavigate regulations brought in to attempt to promote young Chinese players.

"I have to talk about this under-23 thing," he said. "Maybe we are a special team and our U23 player can play a full game. Of course it is none of my business to talk of other teams' decisions, but it is a very disappointing thing that you substitute off the U23 within 15 or 20 minutes."

The CFA introduced new rules in January reducing the number of foreign players permitted to be fielded per match from four to three, with the place previously guaranteed for a player from an Asian country in the starting lineup given to Chinese players under 23.

But some coaches have sought to lessen the impact their young players can have on a game.

Liaoning Whowin coach Ma Lin took 21-year-old Wang Qiao off after just 17 minutes of the opening game of the season against Guizhou Zhicheng while SIPG's Andre Villas-Boas has also been quick to withdraw his young players, doing so inside the first half in both of the club's CSL games so far this season.

"There is a reason for the Chinese Football Association to bring in this regulation," Stojkovic said. "I'm not criticising anyone, it is none of my business. I'm just sharing my opinions.

"Look at our under-23 player: Huang Zhengyu played for 90 minutes, and Xiang Boxu also played. I am glad that they've got the opportunities."

Guangzhou's win moved Stojkovic's side onto six points, level with SIPG and Shandong Luneng at the summit of the early season standings, and the former Red Star Belgrade and Marseille midfielder praised his players' attitude in delivering the victory.

"Today was a very, very tough game," he added. "It was very tight. The field was less than great, but our players fought very hard. We had a strong desire to win and we achieved it. What matters most is that we got three points."

Meanwhile, Liaoning Whowin collected their second point of the season with a 1-1 draw against Henan Jianye after Lang Zheng saw his 60th minute opener cancelled out when Henan's Eddi Gomes struck two minutes later.

Michael Church has written about Asian football for more than 20 years and mainly covers the Chinese game for ESPN FC. Twitter: @michaelrgchurch

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