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[WEF Exclusive] Hughes: Defensive priorities for Harbin Yiteng

Newly promoted Harbin Yiteng came through their first Chinese Super League match on the wrong end of a creditable 1-0 scoreline at last season’s runners-up and AFC Champions League competitors Shandong Luneng.

Speaking exclusively to Wild East Football after the loss, Yiteng’s 31-year-old Australian midfielder Adam Hughes said he was pleased with the result despite defeat, but noted he expects defending to be the most important focus in their opening fixtures.

“It was a great match for us against a strong team to start with. Shandong have far more experience at this level, but for us it was a good experience,” he said.

“Our link up play and possession will improve as each game goes by, though we have to respect the fact that we are away the first seven games. Our defensive duties need to be a high priority.”

Harbin Yiteng’s introduction to the Chinese Super League is nothing short of scary, with seven consecutive away fixtures, including this defeat to Shandong Luneng. They will face Guangzhou Evergrande, Jiangsu Sainty and Shanghai Shenhua, among others, prior to their first home game hosting Beijing Guoan on April 27th.

While Hughes believes the fixture list is difficult for the Heilongjiang side, with their home ground unplayable due to the low temperatures of North-East China, he adds that it should make the first home game an even bigger experience.

“It’s definitely tough playing away from home for so many matches,” he added. “As a club we need to stay focused and work as hard as possible to create an environment in which teams know they are not in for an easy game when Harbin comes around.

“The first home match will be a great experience for the whole club.”

Yiteng seemed to struggle, as did fellow, promoted side Henan Jianye who suffered a 3-0 defeat at last season’s champions of Asia, Guangzhou Evergrande. However, when asked about the tough start, Hughes remained upbeat.

Commenting on the results, he said: “It was a tough start for both newly promoted sides, but I will say teams will lose by a lot more goals against those top two teams come season end.”

Hughes, whose career has seen him feature in England with Doncaster Rovers, and Ireland with both Sligo Rovers and Drogheda United, also understands the need to keep quiet the stars of the CSL as he seemed to do so well with Shandong’s 12 million Euro signing Vágner Love.

“I think we limited his [Love’s] supply in the way he wanted to receive the ball. He is a special player for the CSL,” he said.

“I was satisfied with our performance for it being our first match together at this level, though as our match fitness picks up we will be wanting to improve on our possession and link up play between the lines.”

Harbin Yiteng travel to Guangzhou Evergrande next this Saturday at 8pm Beijing time, you can view the full CSL fixture list here on Wild East Football.

Beijing-based Peter Davis has followed Chinese football since 2008 and is a regular contributor to Wild East Football. He can be found on Twitter and Weibo at @peteydavis

Pete is from Sheffield, England and came to China in 2008 initially living in Shenyang where he witnessed his first CSL game, Liaoning Whowin v Chengdu Blades. Pete is a fanatic Sheffield Wednesday fan but has picked up football allegiances from various trips, Galatasary in Turkey, Piacenza in Italy and Muangthong United in Thailand. In early 2009 he moved to Beijing and after a brief time started attending Guoan games regularly. Pete graduated in Journalism in the UK and has written for several educational publications on Chinese education for his day job as well as Chinese football for WEF which he wishes was more developed but avidly follows the Imperial Guards on their quest for CSL supremacy regardless.

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