Going into Round 28, there wasn’t much chance of Harbin Yiteng staying in the Chinese Super League, but in their final home match a draw to Shanghai East Asia condemned them to a trip down to the China League.
Harbin’s first season ever in the top flight was always going to be difficult, due to stadium issues and the northeastern weather (Harbin, not far from Siberia, is the furthest north side to ever compete in the CSL) the side started with seven straight road games. This would serve as a challenge for anyone, but for a newly promoted side it made things even harder. However during that time they fought hard, Shandong needed a late goal to beat them on the first day of the season and three other defeats, including one to Beijing Guoan, were by a one goal margin during that tough run.
It took Yiteng nine rounds before earning their first point, an away draw to Henan, while their first win came a week later (a 3-1 home win over Changchun). Seven straight road matches meant that after the World Cup break, Harbin would have seven straight home matches, the highlight a 2-0 victory over Shandong, while many will remember the back and forth of their 6-3 loss to Guangzhou Evergrande.
Harbin didn’t put a lot of money into improving the club in the offseason and it showed as the young, inexperienced side struggled to get off the ground. That said, they never stopped fighting and impressed a lot of fans around the country with their feistiness and effort to be in every match. Their fans were impressive for their support, with the side averaging over 26,000 fans each match and providing some inspiring TIFO displays.
Sunday was an emotional day that summed up their entire season, the side going down early only to fight back and equalize. Harbin even pushed for a winner a number of times only to fall just short. The fans, ever loyal, used lights to spell “I Love U” in one end of the stadium. It was a poignant end to a tough fight.
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