Only four games featured teams with anything to play for, but there was plenty of emotion on show in League One’s penultimate round of the season.
Chengdu Tiancheng 0-0 Shijiazhuang Yongchang
Ten man Chengdu were relegated despite valiantly holding promotion-chasing Shijiazhuang in a result that did neither side any favours. Tiancheng had to win this game to stand any chance of staying up and their hopes of survival were dealt a serious blow on the stroke of half-time when Li Mou was sent off for a bad tackle on Huang Shibo. Despite hitting the woodwork three times over the course of the game, the visitors couldn’t find a breakthrough and the points were shared. This means that Shijiazhuang, who looked certainties for promotion three weeks ago, now need to win their final game of the season at home to Qingdao Hainiu in order to guarantee themselves a place in history as Hebei Province’s first ever Super League team.
Meanwhile, results elsewhere meant that Chengdu would have been relegated whatever happened here and they now face an uncertain future. Players wages have gone unpaid and of their three foreign players, only Guadeloupian striker Brie Jovial continues to turn out for the side. There is serious doubt surrounding their ability to field a team in League Two and, whatever happens, it is sad for the Chinese game that one of its strongest footballing cities will go unrepresented in the top two tiers next season.
Qingdao Hainiu 0-3 Beijing Baxy
An easy win against a hapless Qingdao Hainiu side gave Beijing Baxy an outside chance of a final day promotion to the Super League. After dominating the first half, Baxy took the lead immediately after the restart with a deflected long range effort from Chen Fangzhou. A pair of headers from Felipe Ferro on 74 and 84 minutes sealed the win to keep Baxy in the promotion hunt. Courtesy of Shijiazhuang’s recent collapse, Baxy will ascend to the Super League if they beat Shenzhen Ruby and both their Hubei rivals and Wuhan Zall fail to win their respective clashes.
Unfortunately for Baxy, Shijiazhuang’s final game of the season is at home to a Qingdao Hainiu side in horrific form. The Manatees have taken just eight points in fifteen games since the summer break and have now failed to win in twelve straight. It is perhaps no coincidence that their last win came just before they booked an FA Cup semi-final place against Shandong Luneng. They will count themselves lucky that they did enough in the first half of the season to ensure survival and, as the under strength team they fielded against Baxy shows, it seems like they gave up on this League One season a long time ago. One hopes for the integrity of the league that they put up some kind of fight against Shijiazhuang in order to keep the final day interesting.
Yanbian Quanyang Spring 1-4 Wuhan Zall
Wuhan gave themselves a realistic chance of a final day promotion with a comprehensive win over already relegated Yanbian. A first-half brace from Tassio was bracketed by an 8th minute goal from Li Hang and 72nd minute strike by centre-back Ai Zhibo. An 80th minute consolation from Lian Renjie gave Yanbian fans something to cheer about in their final home game as a League One side, but it made no difference to the outcome. The result means that to achieve promotion, Wuhan now go into the final game of the season needing a better result than Shijiazhuang Yongchang and a win in the event that Beijing Baxy are also victorious. Whatever happens, it should (provided Qingdao Hainiu don’t capitulate early in Shijiazhuang) make for a very exciting conclusion to the season.
Hebei Zhongji 0-0 Xinjiang Dabanhuang Nahuan
With Hebei just needing a draw for survival and Xinjiang having absolutely nothing to play for, it wasn’t a surprise that the two teams played out a dire 0-0 draw. Events in Chengdu rendered the outcome of this game entirely meaningless, but the home side won’t care and will be very happy to have survived their first season in the top flight. As it was their last home game of the year, Zhongji’s players unveiled a banner thanking fans for their support during the season and the Shijiazhuang based team can be very satisfied with their 2014. As well as surviving their first season in League One, Zhongji have boasted the fifth highest average attendance in the League this season with over 6,000 regularly coming to games. This is more impressive when one considers that their city rivals Shijiazhuan Yongchang have been drawing over 11,000 fans of their own and provides a strong foundation for a successful 2015.
Chongqing Lifan 1-1 Shenyang Zhongze
21,500 Chongqing fans turned out to celebrate last week’s promotion and witness their team draw 1-1 with a mid-table Shenyang side with nothing to play for. In the 36th minute, Wang Dong fired in a free kick to give the home team the lead and take his personal goal tally up to sixteen for the season. It puts him second in the scoring charts behind Brazilian teammate Guto and cemented his place as the highest scoring Chinese player in the top two divisions. However, Lifan didn’t have it all their own way, and in the 66th minute Tian Yinong equalised before getting himself booked for an over exuberant, shirtless celebration. Just as the yellow card would not have dampened Tian’s spirits after scoring his first goal of the season, it is unlikely that too many Chongqing fans would have cared that their side didn’t take all three points. Remarkably, in holding on for the draw, Lifan have extended their unbeaten run to a record-breaking 27 straight games this season and will no doubt enter the 2015 Super League season full of confidence that they can survive.
Beijing Institute of Technology 3-1 Qingdao Jonoon
BIT ran out comfortable winners in a meaningless game in Beijing. Defender Wang Chao opened the scoring for the home team in the 7th minute before Meng Yang doubled the lead in the 71st. Substitute Zhu Jianrong pulled a goal back five minutes later but Uruguayan Julio Gutierrez sealed the win with four minutes still to play. The result ensures the university team a top twelve finish, while continuing Jonoon’s recent drop in form. In spite of their seven point deduction over the Liu Jian transfer fiasco, Qingdao were still in contention for promotion until a run of four points from four games took them out of the race. They’ll be hoping that less off-field distractions next season will allow them a better chance of returning to the Super League at their second attempt.
Tianjin Songjiang 3-0 Guangdong Sunray Cave
Two goals and an assist from Mario Lucio were enough for Tianjin to breeze past Guangdong in a meaningless game. The Brazilian got his fifth and sixth goals of the season in the 10th and 70th minute, respectively, before teeing up Du Shaobin two minutes from time. The win gives Songjiang a chane at an impressive fifth place finish, while Guangdong will care little about the result as they had already ensured their League One survival the week before.
Shenzhen Ruby 1-0 Hunan Billows
In another dead rubber, an 80th minute Babacar Gueye penalty was enough to give Shenzhen victory over a Hunan side that has fallen away badly towards the tail end of the season. It was the big Senegalese forward’s 62nd league goal in just three seasons with Shenzhen and it capped a season of solid home performances from the Guangdong side which has seen them beaten only twice on their own turf all year. The defeat means that Hunan have now won just two out of their last ten games and have slipped to seventh position having been serious promotion contenders back in August.