20.04.2021 16:46 h

Big crowd and drone-delivered trophy kick off Chinese football season

A crowd of about 30,000 saw Fabio Cannavaro's Guangzhou FC held 2-2 by Guangzhou City on the first day of the Chinese Super League season on Tuesday.

As part of a lively opening ceremony at Tianhe Stadium in Guangzhou, the CSL trophy was flown into the arena -- delivered by the passenger of a large red and white drone.

Italian legend Cannavaro, who is under pressure following a disappointing last campaign, watched his former champions take the lead in only seven minutes when the Brazil-born Chinese international Alan Carvalho nodded in from close range.

But their local rivals were level nine minutes later thanks to an own goal, and City took the lead at 51 minutes via Ye Chugui.

Striker Elkeson, another player born in Brazil but now naturalised to play for China, had missed a penalty for Guangzhou FC shortly before half-time.

However, substitute Wu Shaocong rescued a point for Cannavaro's men with four minutes left with another header.

In the other opening-day match, Marouane Fellaini's Shandong Taishan defeated Chongqing 2-0.

All games in the first stage of the CSL are being played in either Guangzhou or Suzhou, near Shanghai, as part of efforts to thwart the coronavirus.

The 16 teams will be housed in hotels and kept away from the public.

However, unlike sport in some countries, supporters will be allowed into some matches, with the virus largely under control in China.

China's ambitions to be a footballing superpower are under fresh scrutiny after the financial collapse of reigning champions Jiangsu FC.

But the Chinese Football Association is keen to frame the new campaign as a chance for a fresh start on a more sustainable path, in contrast to the era of heavy spending in 2016 and 2017.