Yes! It’s finally here, the last game of the season, and what an electrifying climax the CSL is offering. Following last week’s huge victory in Guangzhou, Guoan are still in it to win it. A dazed and delirious Bcheng joins Shanghai Ultra in the pub to chew over the biggest CSL chewable final day for, ages. B takes us over the estatic moments for Beijingers last week, whilst S players party pooper with his views on this weekend’s likely outcome. Who will be the victor? Will Shandong return the favour Guoan did them in helping them to their last title and beat Evergrade? Will Shenhua-through-and-through Shandong keeper Wang Dalei have a brain fart? Who knows! It’s all possible. The relegation race is also in the frame – Henan or Dalian Aerbin are the most likely sinkers. That is really about it this week, but, by jove, it’s squeeky pigu time. Now you know the Chinese for “bum” – don’t say you never learned anything in the pub! Please, pull up a stool in the comments section and make your prection of who will lift the trophy this weekend, in the comments section.
S: B? is that you pressed against the Pub ceiling?
B: Yeah, I’ve yet to come down since Shao’s goal.
S: How is the view from up there? You won’t be able to drink much if you don’t climb down.
B: A few weeks ago I was chatting to a curmudgeonly individual who was telling me how boring this season has been, does he still think that?
S: Hahha. I said I’d be glad to be proved wrong, and I certainly was, we have one of the most exciting finishes in years on our hands.
B: Yes, the last time we’ve had some final day drama to talk about was 2009.
S: You did a great piece on the site about it, very informative. And the year before that 2008, I witnessed Shenhua throw away the championship with a missed Hamilton Ricard penalty. Those were (not) the days.
B: Yeah, I forgot how dramatic things turned out for Shenhua that year. Well, Sunday was pretty damn dramatic, did you catch any of the match?
S: No, unfortunately for me, instead of watching the biggest CSL match in years, I was at Hongkou watching Shenhua being gubbed 5-2 in a meaningless end of season dead rubber.
B: Too bad, I think the affair at Tianhe lived up to the hype, it was a well played, tight match, both teams creating chances and it coming down to a beautifully taken free kick.
S: I tracked down the highlights as soon as I could, it certainly looked like a game worthy of the occasion, it was always going to be a tight game of course. And what a climax.
B: Definitely, it could have been 2-0 in the final minutes, but Zeng Cheng made a very brave save, going head first into the post and bloodying his nose in the process.
S: Dramatic stuff indeed. And ironic in a way since goal difference seems to be the last factor used in the tie-breaker if Guoan and Evergrande finish on equal points on Sunday.
B: Guoan now hold the advantage in the tiebreaker, but for that they need a lot of help. Shandong was doing really well for awhile, but now seem to be limping into the season finale.
S: I hate to the be the party pooper, but I can’t see Evergrande losing on Sunday, sorry.
B: I don’t give it a high probability, but then again much of what has happened during the last seven matches has been highly improbable, so who knows.
S: It’s not outwith the realms of possibility, I’m just glad to have this exciting finale, I hope Evergrande don’t score early at least.
B: Shandong haven’t always lived up to expectations this year but when they play well, they are impressive. I think it’s going to be a great match in Jinan, really entertaining, no matter the result.
S: Yeah certainly we are in for more thrills and spills. I read that the CSL trophy will be at Gongti, what’s that about?
B: Honestly I have no idea. I’m guessing it’s just easy to have it in Beijing, just in case, and that they don’t want to do a trophy ceremony for a team on the road, so they’d just present it to Evergrande at the official awards ceremony in a week or so.
S: That would seem plausible. Just don’t see why they shouldn’t do it in Jinan if Evergrande win.
B: I’ve given up trying to understand the internal workings of the CSL/CFA.
S: A very good point indeed. So, tell us about where you were during the big game, how was the atmosphere?
B: I was at a bbq spot here in Beijing and my group of 15 probably spooked everyone else with our shouts when Shao’s goal went in. It was a crazy moment, there was a second or so when nobody was sure whether it actually went in and then…madness.
S: Sounds like a lot of fun. Especially with other bar-goers not being in on it.
B: I can’t imagine what the scene would be like at Worker’s Stadium on Sunday if things go Beijing’s way. Tickets sold out extremely quickly and it’s sure to be a packed house. I’d imagine there will be a huge crowd in Jinan as well.
S: I think both stadiums may well be sold out. It will be interesting to see how full Gongti is allowed to get.
B: I’ve brought up a little of the ticket controversy on twitter today, Guoan has around 24,000 season ticket holders and 9,000 individual match tickets were put on sale Tuesday. I would guess the announced attendance to be anywhere from 43,000-50,000. The club’s said tickets are so tight that each player only was given one each. I can’t imagine the difference is made up by sponsors and CFA tickets.
S: It always sickens me how sponsors and people who are never normally there come out of the woodwork for big games and make it harder for fans who have been going all season to get their hands on tickets.
B: I have a feeling a lot of the tickets ultimately end up in the hands of scalpers, who are charging RMB 500 and up for RMB50 tickets. I’d think there might be some big attendances in the relegation battle, but it seems everyone involved is on the road this weekend.
S: Yeah, that’s a pity. But of course it’s great to have so much going on at the top and bottom on the last day. I can confidently predict Hangzhou v Changcun will be a draw. haha.
B: I think that’s a fair bet, anything else and one of those sides may be in danger of going down if things don’t go their way.
S: It’s really between Henan and Dalian. Henan must really be absolutely cursing their luck at the situation they find themselves in on Sunday.
B: You would think so, though they were able to defeat Guoan just after the World Cup break, I can’t see that happening again. Then again, a Dalian win at Shenxin isn’t guaranteed.
S: Yes. Dalian are in very poor form, but Shenxin have nothing to play for, except finishing above Shenhua perhaps.
B: There’s always just playing for pride. I would imagine Shenxin’s going to put out a similar lineup as they’ve used all season. The interesting thing is in the case of a draw, it seems there may have been a change in how the tie breakers work.
S: Yes – I wrote a piece on the site about the various permutations last week, Sina had the tie-breakers as, to sum up, head-to-head, then goal difference. But reserve team performance seems to have slipped into the equazion, after head-to-head and before goal difference. How odd.
B: Most definitely, which really changes things as Henan is likely to hold the advantage in goal difference while Aerbin’s reserve side is the better one.
S: Reserve side performances counting for first team placing in the league. That’s really a new one to me.
B: It’s one of these things, just when you thought you heard it all….hell, the CSL always comes up with something new.
S: Yes, who said China lacks creativity? I think it might have something to do with not wanting it to come down to goal difference, and the various unspeakable things which theoretically could happen if it did.
B: Yeah, but as things stand right now, it’s hard to see how goal difference could seriously come into play. Dalian and Henan are tied in head-to-head, but the goal difference is Henan -7 and Dalian -13. As confident as I am of a Guoan victory, I can’t see them winning by that large a margin over Henan.
S: Agree. I think to cut a long story short, Henan are going down.
B: This is assuming a Henan loss and a Dalian draw, the one way outside of Dalian and Henan both winning and there being a winner in the Hangzhou-Changchun game, that goal difference comes into play. I’m not so sure about that, I think it’s still very possible we don’t see Aerbin win, in which case, they’d be the ones going down (unless reserve records is indeed the fourth tiebreaker).
S: I’m getting confused between Dalian and Henan. How stupid!
B: As hard as it is to imagine Dalian without a side in the top flight, I think it’s for the best that Aerbin go down. They’ve had some very public financial issues this season and I’d almost be worried if they don’t go down, their financial issues prevent them from fielding a CSL squad next season so we’d end up with Henan anyways.
S: It would be very sad to see football city without a top league team for the first time ever. But I couldn’t agree more. It’s almost as if they want to go down.
B: I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for the weekend, this is really what it’s all about. We’re going to see some excellent displays of football, a ton of passion, I really hope more laowai footie fans in China give it a look, I doubt they’ll be disappointed.
S: I think this weekend is what it’s all about. If it was the EPL they’d be creaming their pants and shouting from the rooftops about how amazing it is. I think we can agree at least that the CSL is the best league in China.
B: It’s certainly going to be fun and we’ll have plenty to discuss next week, one way or the other. That said, you have anything else on your mind this week?
S: Yeah I think all we can really say for the moment is it’s really going to go off this weekend and we can only really wait until the fat lady breaks into song. When she does, there will be all manner of things to discuss.
B: I look forward to discussing those with you next week, my friend. Cheers!
S: Cheers mate, I’m looking forward also. Until then.