Shanghai East Asia remain the team to beat in China League One after a hard-fought away victory against Chengdu Blades at the Chengdu Sports Centre. The visitors retained their five-point lead in the standings after Columbian striker Luis Carlos Cabezas scored his second goal in as many games whilst the hosts, who were playing in the Chinese Super League this time last season, remain further adrift of the promotion spots as the halfway point in the season looms in the near distance.
Both sides came out swinging in the first half but the clearest chance fell to Cabezas with barely nine minutes played. Picking up the ball just outside the penalty box, a turn of pace from Wu Lei helped him burst into the area and set up Cabezas, only for the forward to see his header came back off the post and cleared out of danger by Wang Yongxin.
This was the closest East Asia would come in the first half and for the remaining thirty-six minutes until halftime, the visitors were having to fight fires across their defensive lines as Chengdu poured forward in search of the game’s opening goal.
Yet for all their huffing and puffing, Chengdu failed to significantly trouble their guests and other than a yellow card being shown to captain Wang Shenchao, and the East Asia backline returned to the dressing room at halftime relatively unscathed and the game still tied at 0-0.
Suitably rested, hostilities continued after the break and East Asia needed a stroke of luck to stay on level terms as within three minutes of the restart, Ygor, who had already had a penalty appeal turned away at the start of the game, fell in the box once again- only to find play being waved on. Chengdu’s Brazilian import was understandably less than impressed by the decision but barely seconds after the striker had picked himself up, Gao Xiang sent a shot narrowly wide of the East Asia goalmouth and the visitors must have known they were living dangerously.
Cabezas, having already hit the post, then sent another head just wide of the goal midway through the second half and with East Asia chances at a premium given the onslaught they were dealing with at the other end of the pitch, things were not looking good for the league leaders.
Yet with fifteen minutes to go in the game, the Columbian finally found the net when Wu drifted into the penalty box before finding Cabezas with a neat pass. The striker’s left footed shot was true and flew under the diving Zhang Chen to give East Asia the lead.
It was a decisive knockout blow and Chengdu, having been so aggressive in the earlier exchanges, now had the wind taken out of their sails for the remainder of the game whilst East Asia, having got their lead, saw out the rest of the game with little drama or fuss and will now travel back to Shanghai with a win that could be crucial towards the end of the season.
In other CS1 results, Tianjin Songjiang slipped to third in the table after losing away to Harbin Yiteng, 2-0. Hunan Xiangtao, courtesy of their 2-0 win in Guangzhou against Guangdong Sunray Cave, moved up one place to second whilst Shenzhen Ruby moved up to fifth after their 3-1 victory against bottom side Shenyang Shenbei.