Shanghai East Asia surrendered their unbeaten home record in the worst possible way on Sunday after a 1-0 loss to second place Wuhan Zull.
East Asia started brightly and for the first ten minutes looked like the stronger team. However, a hopeful long ball caught out the home side’s backline and Bruno Camacho gave away his second penalty in four games after clipping the heel of a Wuhan striker. Despite it being an obvious foul, East Asia didn’t help themselves by surrounding the referee after he pointed to the spot and then the hosts spent several minutes trying to put off the Zull penalty taker by delaying the taking of the kick.
However, when the referee finally cleared the box of the East Asia players, Yao Hanlin stepped up and coolly dispatched the ball past Yan Junling with a Paneka-esqe penalty kick and the visitors had a critical opening goal.
The home side came fighting back immediately after the kick-off and soon had a penalty of their own after Luis Carlos Cabezas was tripped over by Mei Fang. It was an clear foul but the extra theatrics that came with it (including the Colombian throwing himself several feet into the air as if he’d been pole-axed) certainly weren’t pretty on the eye.
It was now Zull’s turn to contest an obvious penalty and then delay the spot kick for a considerable length of time by continually claiming the ball wasn’t on the spot or getting in the way of Wu Lei, who was readying himself to take the kick.
Then, when the time came for Wu to actually take his spot kick, his aim wasn’t as true as Yao’s and the East Asia midfielder’s effort crashed onto the bar and away from danger.
The gamesmanship on display wasn’t only confined to mind games and with half an hour played, Wuhan players were already beginning to need treatment on the pitch itself only to come back on immediately after the referee made them leave the pitch. On one notable example, two different Zull players went down clutching their knees the second they lost position and East Asia tried to break on the counter attack.
East Asia were just as guilty of indulging in the dark arts and as well as going down remarkably easily- notably Wu, who added another effort to his lengthy catalogue of dives this season, the homeside were prone to waving imaginary cards at the referee after every foul the visitors conceded.
There were still opportunities for East Asia to equalize though and both Wu and Cabezas should have done better with some excellent crosses that were whipped in from the left hand side of the pitch.
When the two sides returned after the halftime break, the tempo of the game was becoming even slower now that Wuhan were putting ten men behind the ball and forcing East Asia to try and find an equalizer via long-range shots and hopeful crosses from deep.
With seventy-three minutes gone, Cabezas misfired once again when the ball found his way in the box only for the striker to fire his shot into the side netting from just outside the six-yard box and the frustrated, tired look on the East Asia striker said it all.
To their credit, East Asia kept on coming but whenever they came too close to the Wuhan goal, a Zull player would come across to foul the player in possession and break up the momentum. Somewhat ironically, Wu looked to have been fouled in the box with five minutes of normal time left to play but the fact that both he and Lv both fell to ground theatrically in the scramble for the ball probably persuaded the referee against awarding the game’s third penalty.
Cabezas had his third and final chance to equalise for East Asia deep into injury time but despite being completely unmarked and from eight yards out, the on-loan striker’s header was straight at Wu Yan.
It was an awful second half for East Asia and when it mercifully came to an end a few minutes later, the home side deserved to be leaving the pitching without a single point to show for their endeavors, and some woeful finishing and crude attempts at simulation in the box underlined how pathetic the hosts had been in a game they could and should have won.
Yet, for all the scorn that should be poured on East Asia, remarkably the victors deserve even more. Having helped create an incredible ten minutes of extra time due to all the play acting and ‘urgent’ medical attention needed by Wuhan players on the pitch (the Zull physios were on the pitch on at least nine different occasions in the second half), the visitors embarrassed themselves with their gamesmanship. China can jail all the corrupt referees and officials it wants in a bid to boost confidence and interest in its local football leagues but when two teams colluded to produce such a horror show of playacting and straight-up cheating, its clear why China League One struggles to get large crowds week in and week out.
In other CL1 results this weekend, Chongqing Lifan lost 5-3 away to Shenzhen Ruby after the hosts scored four second-half goals. Elsewhere, fourth place Harbin Yiteng lost 2-1 to bottom side Beijing Baxy whilst Tianjin Songjiang drew 2-2 with struggling Hohhot Dongjin.