Soccer-Guangzhou Evergrande seal top spot in CSL's Dalian hub

Sept 22 (Reuters) - Defending champions Guangzhou Evergrande secured top spot in Group A of the Chinese Super League (CSL) with two rounds remaining before the knockout stages by beating Henan Jianye 2-1 in the Dalian hub.

China’s Brazil-born striker Elkeson put World Cup winner Fabio Cannavaro’s side ahead in the 14th minute on Monday, converting a penalty for his fifth goal of the season after Fernando Karanga’s clumsy challenge on He Chao.

Brazilian Paulinho doubled their advantage in the 25th minute, tapping home after Fernandinho’s shot was parried by the Henan goalkeeper.

Bottom side Henan, who had an early goal from Ma Xingyu chalked off, pulled one back before the half-hour mark through Ivo but could not avoid falling to a fifth straight CSL defeat.

Guangzhou Evergrande will take on the fourth-placed team from Group B in the next stage of the campaign.

Also in Group A, Shandong Luneng took their tally to 20 points from 12 games with a 2-1 victory over Shenzhen FC thanks to Duan Liuyu’s 13th minute strike and a first-half penalty from former Southampton forward Graziano Pelle.

Shenzhen cut the deficit through Gao Lin’s penalty in the second half but Shandong held on for victory.

Spaniard Rafa Benitez’ disappointing season continued when his seventh-placed Dalian Pro were beaten 1-0 by Guangzhou R&F after a stoppage time goal from midfielder Ye Chugui.

Shanghai Shenhua played out a goalless draw with Jiangsu Suning, who are second in the table.

Games from round 12 in Group B will take place in the Suzhou hub later on Tuesday. (Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford )