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HONG KONG (Reuters) - Shanghai SIPG and Guangzhou R&F were both reduced to 10 men after a fight broke out in their 1-1 draw on Sunday that left Guangzhou Evergrande four points clear at the top of the Chinese Super League.
Both sides were a man down for the entire second half after Guangzhou's Li Tixiang and Shanghai's Fu Huan were sent off after a brawl following second-placed SIPG's equaliser just before the break.
Play was disrupted for more than seven minutes as Chen Zhizhao pushed over SIPG's former Chelsea playmaker Oscar after the Brazilian set up compatriot Hulk to score Shanghai's equaliser.
Eran Zahavi had earlier given R&F the lead following a howler by SIPG goalkeeper Yan Junling.
As the game descended into chaos, referee Zhou Gang handed Li and Fu a red card each for their behaviour in the ensuing melee and Andre Villas-Boas's Shanghai side were unable to pick up the win they needed to keep pace with Evergrande.
"It was a very difficult game and 1-1 is quite disappointing," said the former Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur coach.
"We came here for the win and hoped to keep the pressure on Evergrande. However, a draw makes the gap with Evergrande even bigger.
"But I am satisfied with my players. They tried their best, and gave us a very good match."
It was the first time in seven games that Villas-Boas's team dropped points and, as a result, SIPG lost ground on an Evergrande side that had goals from Gao Lin and Ricardo Goulart to thank for their 2-0 win over Guizhou Zhicheng on Saturday.
"Though we won the game, Guizhou deserved a draw," said Guangzhou head coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.
"They created more chances, and we didn't have 100 percent control of the game. We have physical issues and the players were not motivated enough."
Evergrande lead the standings by four points from SIPG with Hebei CFFC two points further adrift in third after Stephane M'bia scored the only goal as Manuel Pellegrini's side beat Tianjin Quanjian, last season's second division champions, 1-0.
Fabio Capello started his tenure at Jiangsu Suning with a 1-0 defeat against Changchun Yatai that leaves the Italian's side just one point off the bottom of the standings.
Yanbian Funde prop up the table following a 3-1 loss against Henan Jianye.
Carlos Tevez set up Shanghai Shenhua's first goal for Cao Yunding but the Argentinian was unable to help his team to their first win in six games as Gustavo Poyet's side were held to a 2-2 draw by Chongqing Lifan.
Diego Tardelli scored twice for Felix Magath's Shandong Luneng in their 3-0 win over Liaoning Whowin to remain in fourth while Burak Yilmaz and Renato Augusto were on target as Beijing Guoan picked up a 2-0 win over Tianjin Teda.
Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Toby Davis