Xinjiang Tiashan Leopard FC registered their first victory in China League One thanks to a second half goal from Xinjiang native Bari Mamatil and the backing of a huge away support. Hosts Guangdong Sunray Cave lacked inspiration but still had several chances to equalise with Mahama Awal guilty of missing the two best opportunities.
CHINA LEAGUE ONE ROUND 3
Guangdong Sunray Cave 0
Xinjiang Taishan Leopard FC 1
Bari Mamatil 50′
Hubei Huakaier finished 13th last season but in February the club moved to Urumqi and changed their name to Xinjiang Taishan Leopard. They retained some players including Brazilian utility man Vicente and acted quickly to sign others including ex-Shenhua frontman Dady, Costa Rican Johnny Woodly and Bari Mamatil on loan from Jiangsu.
After scoring the equaliser for Guangdong last week, coach Moreno gave Petar Jelic his first start and the Bosian Serb had two shots inside the opening two minutes. It took the hosts until the 40th minute to seriously trouble Zhu Zisen in the Xianjing goal when he needed to be at full stretch to save Wang Qiang’s header. Apart from this, Awal’s direct but head down running had been the Cantonese team’s main threat.
The Leopards, with China veteran Vicente at centre back, showed a more patient style of play as they looked to work the ball out wide for crosses to Johnny Woodly and Dady but Guangdong’s Liang Hua was alert and dealt with the high balls well.
The only other talking point of a fairly uneventful first half was when Dady and Sunray Cave defender Carlos Garcia went face-to-face after a seemingly innocuous challenge and had to be pulled apart by teammates.
Backed by a huge, if not particularly vocal, away support of about 300 Xinjiang took the lead at the start of the second half. Dady’s miscontrol from Woodly’s pass denied him the chance to shoot and instead he found Mamatil whose shot beat Liang from a tight angle.
It was all Guangdong after this as Xinjiang were reduced to playing long balls in the general direction of Woodly to clear their lines. The Cantonese had also begun to take the aerial route but Jelic couldn’t often get the better of Vicente in their personal duel and Sunray Cave’s best chances came when they flooded the box at set pieces. Liu Tao and Jelic both sent headers wide under pressure but Cameroonian winger Mahama Awal had no such excuse when he missed two almost identical chances at the back post because instead of heading the ball he opted to lower his head and let the ball bounce off it.
As the clock ticked down the home fans were becoming impatient with Xianjiang’s time wasting and their own full backs’ reluctance to get forward to support the attack. Guangdong did create two late chances but Awal’s lob was tipped onto the roof of the net and Garcia awkwardly hooked his stoppage time volley over the bar so Xinjiang held out for a 1-0 win.
This defeat means that Sunray Cave and their new manager Moreno are yet to win in three home games but have another chance next week before they hit the road the week after, much to the relief of their groundsman and a few of the players who complained about the state of the pitch in their post-match interviews.
The Leopards celebrated with their fans at the final whistle and will stay in Guangdong as they face Shenzhen Ruby in their next match. Like Harbin in the CSL, Xinjiang play their opening seven games away from home but if they continue to attract the support of the Xinjiang diaspora in such numbers they will have plenty of fans cheering them on before they finally play in Urumqi.