Fabio Cannavaro has led Guangzhou Evergrande to their eighth Chinese Super League (CSL) title, a month after the Italian coach was publicly lambasted by the club for his “weak ability to rectify mistakes”.
With the championship going down to the final day of the season, Beijing Guoan needed to defeat Shandong Luneng at home and hope that Cannavaro’s side lost to visiting Shanghai Shenhua.
Guoan triumphed 3-2 thanks to a 91st-minute goal but Evergrande were comfortable 3-0 winners over struggling Shenhua.
It is the first major honour of his coaching career and a personal triumph for Cannavaro, 46, who appeared to be on the brink just a few weeks ago.
Evergrande were then top of the league but in the middle of a slump and club bosses put veteran captain Zheng Zhi in temporary charge, telling Cannavaro to attend “corporate culture training”.
The former Juventus defender and 2006 World Cup winner was retained as coach in early November but with a warning that he must “raise the players’ overall fighting ability to win the Chinese Super League”.
Evergrande duly took maximum points from their next two matches, notably against crown-slipping champions Shanghai SIPG, to put them on the brink of the title.
The Brazilians Paulinho and Anderson Talisca have been central to Evergrande’s resurgence and the latter had the first effort of the game at nine minutes, when his venomous strike was palmed away by Shenhua goalkeeper Chen Zhao.
Winger Wei Shihao made it 1-0 moments before the break when he stabbed in from close range.
South Korean international Park Ji-Soo made it 2-0 on 55 minutes and celebrated by running over to Cannavaro, embracing and pointing at the Italian.
Brazil-born Chinese international Elkeson clipped in the third.
Evergrande topped the final table with 72 points, ahead of Guoan with 70. SIPG were third on 66.