(photo credit: Courtesy)
Eran Zahavi demonstrated why he was handed the richest contract in Israeli sports history when he netted a hat-trick for Guangzhou R&F in its first match of the new Chinese league season on Friday, leading his team to a 5-4 victory over defending champion Guangzhou Evergrande.
The 30-year-old forward, who joined Guangzhou from Maccabi Tel Aviv in the summer of 2016, signed a three-year contract extension last Monday that is set to earn him a minimum of $10 million per season.
Zahavi was the Chinese league’s top scorer last season with 27 goals, just one shy of the league record, and he got the new campaign off to a prolific start.
Xiao Zhi scored the winner 15 minutes from time with a header that went in off the inside of the post after Zahavi and Alan Carvalho of Evergrande had both claimed hat-tricks.
Zahavi struck twice from outside the area in the opening 10 minutes before Carvalho ensured the champions went into the break in front with three goals in a 32-minute spell before the interval.
Zahavi restored parity just four minutes after the restart before Junior Urso put R&F in front when goalkeeper Liu Dianzuo fumbled his long-range attempt.
A penalty from Ricardo Goulart leveled the score yet again only for Xiao’s header to seal all three points for Dragan Stojkovic’s side.