- Associated Press - Monday, November 2, 2015

DOHA, Qatar (AP) - For Luiz Felipe Scolari, beating coaching rival Sven Goran Eriksson to the Chinese Super League title on Saturday was just the first of three targets for 2015.

The Brazilian, who led his country to success at the 2002 World Cup, now has to turn his attention to the first leg of the Asian Champions League final on November 7, when his Guangzhou Evergrande play at Al Ahli of the United Arab Emirates.

Should Guangzhou win a second continental title in three years, then all focus will turn to December’s Club World Cup when the various confederation champions meet in Japan.

Scolari took over from Fabio Cannavaro in June as the coach of the ambitious and rich club. The Chinese title race went down to the final game of the season.

Starting the day two points ahead of Eriksson’s Shanghai SIPG, Guangzhou faced a tricky test in Beijing but the Cantonese club won 2-0 in front of over 50,000 fans at Beijing Worker’s Stadium to clinch a fifth successive title.



Once again Eriksson - who, as manager of England, lost to Scolari at the quarterfinal stages of the 2002 and 2006 World Cups and the 2004 European championships - came out second best to the Brazilian.

“It’s was a tough game,” Scolari said. “We gave the opposition some chances early but we found our rhythm and then when the time came, we took our chances. We deserve to be the champion.”

Guangzhou’s Brazilian stars made the difference.

Ricardo Goulart scored the first, repaying another slice of a transfer fee of around $17 million paid to Cruzeiro in January. The striker helped the team to the Brazilian league title last season and was one of the league’s top scorers. Paulinho, signed from Tottenham in June for a similar fee, scored the second that sealed the win and another title for Guangzhou.

With former Real Madrid and Milan striker Robinho and Elkeson, signed for around $8 million in 2012, Guangzhou has serious Brazilian firepower. In total since 2010, the club has invested more than $150 million in the transfer fees and salaries of players and coaching staff. The vast amounts have paid dividends and in the 2015 league season, Guangzhou lost only one game out of 30.

“We are definitely a great team,” said Scolari. “We only had one draw in 10 away games since I have been the head coach. Now though we can not celebrate too much as we have a very big game coming.”

With domestic success now almost taken for granted, the club owners demand wider glory and a second Asian title in three years. Marcello Lippi won the domestic and continental double in 2013 and Scolari is aiming to do the same and also beat the fourth place that Guangzhou managed at the 2013 FIFA Club World Cup.

Al Ahli of Dubai is a dangerous opponent. The Red Knights are led by the experienced Cosmin Olaroiu who took Steaua Bucharest to the league title in his native Romania in 2006 and has subsequently won championships and cup competitions in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. He won the 2012 and 2013 UAE league title with Al Ain and then at Al Ahli in 2014.

Like Guangzhou, Al Ahli has some expensive Brazilian imports. Lima arrived in the summer from Benfica for a fee of around $10 million. The striker has scored 14 goals in 12 games so far. Alongside Everton Ribiero, and local star striker Ahmed Khalil, the team boasts genuine scoring power.

“In this moment, Guangzhou are one of the first three teams, if not the first, in Asia,” Olaroiu said. “They’re a strong team with a lot of investment. They won the Champions League two years ago, lost in semi-final last year and this year are in the final again. That says everything about their power.”

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