Tianjin Teda earned a much needed three points last night, defeating Liaoning Whowin 1-0 off a late penalty. With the win, their Asian Champions League hopes remain, hough the odds are still against them to once again represent China in Asia.
Liaoning, coming off a midweek cup tie loss where the squad played at an incredible pace for 90 minutes, had to bring in a number of youth players to put together an 18 man squad. Making things worse, pictures circulated around the internet showing Yu Hanchao on the train to Tianjin without a seat, sitting on the floor and sleeping on his bag, looking like a migrant worker and calling into question how the club treats its players.
The first half was all Tianjin as Liaoning looked like they were not at all ready for the match. Tianjin had a number of excellent chances in the half, mostly through Sjoerd Ars. His best chance came in the 23rd minute when a Liaoning defender slipped in the box, allowing Ars a free header, though keeper Zhang Lu was up to the task. This would quickly become the trend all night as Liaoning were left on their heels.
Early in the second half it was much the same with Tianjin applying considerable pressure, but Zhang was more than up to the task in net, making a number of very impressive, aerial saves. In the 61st minute, Tianjin had a good opportunity on the break, with Wang Xinxin having all the time in the world, however his shot was weak and right at Zhang. Ten minutes later it was Zhang with another massive save, giving up a rebound to Chen Tao, who banged it into the side netting.
It looked for awhile that Zhang’s heroic performance would be awarded with a point for his side, despite Liaoning being under attack all night and not producing a single shot on net. That was spoiled when a header was sent at the net off a corner kick and midfielder Jin Taiyan decided to get into the goalkeeping action, handing the ball and giving Tianjin a penalty kick, while being given a straight red. Vladimir Jovancic, a second half substitute for Ars, stepped up and nailed the penalty past Zhang for the only goal of the night.
Liaoning manager Ma Lin brought on star striker Yang Xu in the final minutes and he made an instant impact, helping an attack that was all but dead for 80 minutes. The visitors’ best chance of the night actually came off the head of a Tianjin player, in the final minutes of extra time, Liaoning swung in a corner kick that a Tianjin player headed off his own crossbar. With Qingdao winning, Liaoning’s loss means they are still in a very precarious position, currently sitting in 12th place.