Shanghai East Asia moved to the top of China League 1 (CL1) on goal difference on Sunday after a 2-0 win over the struggling Yanbian Tigers, who themselves were condemned to the foot of the table following their third defeat in four games.
With both sides lining up in 4-5-1 formations, space and time were at a premium, although East Asia should have taken the lead in the opening minutes but an unmarked Wu Lei failed to make the most of Luis Carlos Cabezas’ cross from the left.
The chances continued to come but the hosts were struggling to find a way past Chi Wenyi in the Yanbian goal. Indeed, having already made a smart save to foil Lu Wenjun’s freekick from twenty yards out, the keeper did well to smother Wang Shenchao’s point blank header from a corner on the forty-minute mark.
The visitors looked bereft of ideas in the first half and ironically their best chance would come courtesy of their hosts, when, with the halftime whistle approaching, Sun Le sprinted out of his area to try and collect a miss-hit pass, only to slip and send the ball into the path of Xu Bo.
Scarcely believing his luck, the striker took a touch to control the ball, which allowed Sun to slow Xu down and a frantic home defence arrived just in time to relieve the forward of possession.
East Asia continued to set the agenda in the second half and chances continued to come their way, culminating in an excellent chance for Lu, who saw his close range effort tipped over the bar by Chi following good work down the right hand side by Zhen Zengrong.
Yet, from the resulting corner, the breakthrough finally arrived when the referee somehow spotted an infringement in a packed six-yard box and awarded an unlikely penalty that even surprised some of the home fans. Wu was smart enough to take advantage of the opportunity and coolly sent Chi the wrong way as his shot nestled into the bottom right hand corner of the goal.
Now forced to press forward, Yanbian were constantly being caught on the counter attack, most notably when Chi had to rush out and make a save at the feet of Wu, who had been sent clear by Lu’s deft pass.
Having comfortably contained Yanbian with relative ease for most of the game, East Asia then put the game to bed in injury time when Didier Njewel clipped an excellent throughball into the path of Chen Zijie, who dispatched his chance with aplomb, and with that the game was done.
In other results around CL1, Hunan Xiangtao and Beijing Baxi played out a 1-1 draw that would allow East Asia to go top of the table. Chengdu Blades drew 2-2 with Fujian Smart Hero whilst the other side relegated from the Chinese Super League last season, Shenzhen Ruby, got their first victory in three games after beating Chongqing FC 4-2.