Ex-Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini endured a baptism of fire as his new club Hebei China Fortune slumped 3-0 to Guangzhou Evergrande in the Chinese Super League.
As Pep Guardiola steered City to a famous 2-1 derby win over Manchester United, Pellegrini’s Hebei went down to goals from Huang Bowen and Brazilian duo Alan and Ricardo Goulart in Qinhuangdao.
But Pellegrini shrugged off the result and said it would take time to reach the level of Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Evergrande, who have won five championships in a row and lead the league by six points.
“It’s unfair to make a comparison between Hebei and Guangzhou Evergrande’s teams based on just one game but I think the gap is not big,” said the Chilean, according to the Sina news portal.
“Right now Evergrande are at the peak of the game in China and we are in a state of change. We did not play with enough confidence, in the remaining games we will strive to close the gap and get better results.”
Newly promoted Hebei have spent big on the likes of Ivory Coast forward Gervinho and Argentinian winger Ezequiel Lavezzi, as well as Pellegrini, in an effort to overtake Evergrande.
Saturday’s victory was Evergrande’s first in four games and kept them six ahead of Jiangsu Suning, who demolished rock-bottom Shijiazhuang Ever Bright 6-1 with Alex Teixeira scoring a hat-trick.
Elsewhere, Shanghai SIPG received a boost ahead of this week’s AFC Champions League quarter-final second leg against Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors as record signing Hulk scored twice on his return from injury.
The Brazilian, who joined for a reported 55 million euros ($62 million) from Zenit St. Petersburg in July, unleashed a fierce drive on 51 minutes and then grabbed a last-minute penalty as SIPG drew 2-2 with Beijing Guoan.
“The first goal was a typical Hulk goal-boom! I don’t think the Beijing goalkeeper even moved,” said Eriksson, whose side play Jeonbuk away on Tuesday with the aggregate score locked at 0-0.
“It was good for us to come back after being behind 2-1, but I am quite sure we have to play better on Tuesday if we want to go through in the Champions League.”