Shanghai East Asia can start writing a new chapter in its young history after Saturday’s defiant, all-or-nothing performance earned them a 3-0 victory away to Harbin Yiteng.
The visitors, who went into the game needing to hold its nerve after their defeat to Wuhan Zull the previous week, could have played it safe and looked for a draw but instead took the game to their hosts and can now come back to Shanghai having achieved their ultimate goal- Chinese Super League football in 2013.
Harbin went into the game in fourth place and needing a victory to keep up with teams above them, started the game aggressively. Having pushed down the field in what they hoped would be the first of many forages into the East Asia half, Yiteng almost immediately lost the ball and with the home team caught out of position, the ball found its way to Luis Carlos Cabezas who made his way into the area and coolly dispatched his shot past Han Fangteng. East Asia were ahead after just three minutes.
It was a shot to the heart of Harbin and having been exposed so quickly and so ruthlessly, the hosts took their time to find their feet in a fixture that they couldn’t afford to lose. Closely watched by Ransford Addo, Yiteng’s dangerous Brazilian striker Roderigo couldn’t get going whilst the rest of his Harbin teammates were struggling to find some momentum amidst a packed midfield.
The struggle for the middle-third of the pitch dominated the game and both managers made substitutions early in the second half to edge control over to their team but to no avail.
Yet with the battle in the trenches raging, it fell to one of East Asia’s tactical substitutions to make a crucial impact on proceedings. Harbin failed to adequately clear a ball out of the box and Zhen Zhengrong pounced on the clearance , catching it perfectly on the volley to send it flying back towards the Yiteng goal and almost rip the net as it flew past Han.
It was another bolt out of the blue and with just eight minutes of normal time left, effectively won the game for East Asia, whilst for Harbin their season was as good as over. A petulant foul in the box by a Yiteng defender deep into injury time highlighted their frustrations and having missed his spot kick in the previous game against Wuhan, Wu Lei made no mistake this time around by firmly dispatching the penalty to make it 3-0.
With their fixture completed, East Asia were then forced to nervously wait for news on how third place Chongqing Lifan were doing. As some players sat in the dressing room whilst others slumped on the pitch itself, word slowly got back that Lifan had just gone behind 2-1 at home to relegation threatened Shenyang Shenbei.
As the Lifan game started thirty minutes after the Yiteng fixture, the wait was agonizing but when confirmation came that the full-time score was still 2-1 to Shenbei, East Asia’s players could finally celebrate their promotion to the Chinese Super League after a season of highs, lows, false starts, slip-ups, upsets and controversies.
In other CL1 results, second place Wuhan Zull handled their business with a resounding 3-0 victory over Tianjin Songjiang whilst Lifan of course lost 2-1 at home to lowly Shenyang Shenbei despite the hosts taking the lead. With the third, fourth and fifth placed teams (Lifan, Harbin and Tianjin) all losing, the promotion places will be complete if Zull gets a point from one of its final three games.