An 81st minute strike from captain Wang Shenchao give Shanghai East Asia a priceless 1-0 victory over the struggling Hohhot Dongjin on Sunday night, restoring the home side’s four point lead at the top of the table in what was a scrappy, frenetic and remarkable game.
East Asia had the best chance in an error strewn first half when Wu Lei burst into the penalty box before firing into the side netting but the encounter really burst into life on the stroke of half time after a highly controversal refereeing decision.
Hohhot’s Yovanny Arrechea and Bruno Camacho had been enjoying a physical contest for the opening forty-four minutes when the pair clashed midair while competing for a header. The Brazilian defender seemed to go in for the ball robustly only to go down clutching his head after competing for the ball. Blowing for a foul, the referee waited for almost a minute for Camacho to get to his feet and show him a yellow. So far, so normal.
However, having cautioned the Brazilian, the match official then turned to Arrechea and showed him the red card for what could have only have been a deliberate elbow on Camacho. Having irritated the visitors already due to what they regarded as some very favourable home team decisions, the dismissal of their Columbian striker triggered a furious reaction from Hohhot who swarmed around the referee.
Surrounded by players, substitutes and officials, the referee was struggling to keep control of the situation and the lineman on the far side was forced to wade in and break up the scrum whilst in the background, police with riot shields appeared to force someone connected to the Hohhot team back down into the players tunnel.
It was a farcical situation and it took almost five minutes for Arrechea to leave the pitch. Despite the original incident taking place during regular time, the referee then immediately blew for half time as soon as play was able to restart and both teams trudged off mystified at what had just happened whilst the match officials waited nervously at the tunnel until both sets of teams had gone into their dressing rooms before leaving the pitch themselves.
Against a limited opposition that was now down to ten men, East Asia came out all guns blazing in the second half and spent almost the entirety of the following forty-five minutes camped out in the Hohhot end. Captain Wang Shenchao had a header cleared off the line whilst Wu and Lv Wenjun came close themselves but with ten minutes left to play, it looked like the home side were going to be unable to score in their second successive game.
However, with the clocking winding down, Lv, who has quietly set about being one of East Asia’s most reliable players during this season, broke down the byline after a corner from the right hand side hand had been cleared by the beleaguered Dongjin defence and delivered a pinpoint cross that was poked in at the far post by Wang.
For Hohhot, the goal was a decisive blow and the remaining ten minutes of the game had the feel of a funeral procession for the visitors, who lacked the manpower or the minutes to get back into the game. The referee’s whistle blew after a small amount on injury time but in reality, the match was as good as over after East Asia’s goal.
With five games remaining left in the CL1 calendar, the next seven weeks will be the most important in its young history but their eventual victory against Dongjin will have given them a real chance of winning promotion to the Chinese Super League next season. The team still needs to be more clinical with its chances but the tangible dream of top flight football remains alive and kicking in the red half of Shanghai for another seven days.
In other CL1 results, second place Wuhan Zull dropped points after drawing 2-2 with bottom side Beijing Baxy whilst a Brendan Santalab penalty was enough to give Chongqing Lifan victory over the visiting Fujian Smart Hero. Meanwhile Harbin Yiteng moved up to fourth in the table after beating Hunan Xiangtao 2-1 at home.