Shijiazhuang broke Wuhan hearts by winning promotion with a last second penalty in a remarkable final day full of twists, turns and all manner of drama.
Shijiazhuang Yonghang 3-2 Qingdao Hainiu
There were incredible scenes at the Yutong International Sport centre as nearly 30,000 fans endured an emotional rollercoaster only to see their team promoted courtesy of a 95th minute Emil Garagov penalty. With Wuhan Zall leading from the 2nd minute in their home fixture against already crowned champions Chongqing Lifan, nothing less than a win would have been enough for Yongchang to qualify for a place in next year’s Super League and the Hebei outfit made incredibly hard work of defeating a Qingdao Hainiu side who came into the game on the back of eight straight losses.
However, any fears that the Manatees would simply lie down and give Shijiazhuang an easy stroll into the top tier were quickly put aside when they found themselves 1-0 up after nine minutes. Wang Rui, who recently returned from international duty with China’s U-23 side at the Asian Games, found space on the edge of the area and fired past Wang Guoming with his side’s first shot of the game. Roared on by their near capacity crowd, Shijiazhuang were able to equalise twelve minutes later through Huang Fengtao who sent the Yonghang faithful into a state of delirium in the 50th minute when he pounced on a deflected free-kick to make it 2-1.
Incredible amatuer footage of Shijiazhuang’s late goal and celebrations
From then on, everything was going well for Shijiazhuang until the unthinkable happened in the 88th minute. Jiang Jihong played an innocuous one-two with goalkeeper Wang Guoming, only to dally over the return pass and allow Shewket Yalqun to steal the ball from him. The 21 year-old Xinjiang native then proceeded to show parent club, Guangzhou Evergrande his potential by racing away from Jiang and coolly rounding Wang to make it 2-2 and apparently dash Hebei’s hopes of having a first ever
Super League team. Remarkably, though, there was still a twist in the tale and as the clock ticked over into the 5th and final minute of injury time, a high ball was allowed to bounce on the edge of the Qingdao area. Jiang Jihong was this time more alert than anyone else and was able to nod the lose ball into Bulgarian Emil Garogov who only had the goalkeeper to beat. In desperation, Hainiu defender Wang Jian pulled him back and, although Gargorov didn’t go to ground, the referee made the right call in pointing to the spot.
Amid minor protestations from the away side, Gargorov stepped up to convert the penalty in the calm manner of a man who had no idea what the consequences of his goal would be. The ball rolled down the middle, goalkeeper Liu Peng dived to his right and nearly 30,000 fans went ballistic. Shijiazhuang Yongchang will compete in next year’s Super League for the first time in their history and if it’s anything like this season, it’s going to be quite a ride.
Wuhan Zall 2-0 Chongqing Lifan
Shijiazhuang fans were not the only ones to ride a gambit of emotions on Saturday afternoon. Wuhan Zall’s comfortable win over runaway champions Chongqing Lifan meant Gargorov’s last minute penalty was every bit as devastating for supporters in Hubei as it was exhilarating for their Shijiazhuang counterparts. A fortunate Yao Hanlin goal in the 2nd minute set Wuhan on the path to victory against a team which had been unbeaten in their previous 27 league matches. A cleared corner fell to Yao on the edge of the area and he rolled a tame shot towards the bottom right-hand corner. Lukily, both Wuhan forward Sergio Leal and a Chongqing defender feinted towards the ball before changing their minds and this wrong-footed goalkeeper Sui Weijie who dived late and could only watch as it trickled passed him.
The game remained competitive until the 60th minute when Zhu Ting headed a Li Hang free kick across the face of goal to Ai Zhibo who nodded in Wuhan’s second. From that moment on, both teams were waiting for the full time whistle while the attention of many of the 12,000 in attendance turned to the updates coming in on their phones. The loudest cheer of the day came when news of Yalqun’s late equaliser filtered through. Flares were lit and celebrations ensued, but all this proved premature as reports of Shijiazhuang’s sensational winner began reverberating around the ground. Under any other circumstances, beating the league champions would be something to celebrate, but on this strange day at the Xinhua Road Stadium the result proved to be of little significance as Wuhan were denied promotion by the finest of margins.
Beijing Baxy 2-1 Shenzhen Ruby
Although they were still in with a chance of promotion at the opening kickoff, things were less dramatic for Beijing Baxy as they overcame Shenzhen Ruby 2-1. Aside from winning, Baxy needed both Wuhan and Shijiazhuang to drop points to secure second place and Wuhan’s early lead against Chongqing meant that scenario was never likely to happen. Nevertheless, Baxy kept going and after dominating a goalless first half they took the lead in the 53rd minute when Bosnian Ivan Bozic headed against the bar and midfielder Li Zhihao was able to score from the rebound.
The home team continued to create chances but Shenzhen equalised against the run of play on 76 minutes when Wei Chao appeared to mishit a shot which fell to an unmarked Ling Sihao to finish from close range. However, the visitors’ parity lasted just seven minutes as Han Xuan scored a controversial winner. Taiwanese midfielder Chen Hao-Wei lofted a high ball into the box which goalkeeper Qiu Kebei and Baxy centre back Lucien Goian both challenged for.
The Shenzhen stopper looked to have been impeded by the Romanian and the ball fell to Han who had little problem dispatching it. Whether the goal was valid or not, Baxy deserved their win and, although they ultimately missed out on promotion this time round, a strong finish this year coupled with the apparent increased investment coming their way in 2015 means they are among the early favourites to win a place in the 2016 Super League.
Chengdu Tiancheng 4-1 Xinjiang Dabahuan Nahuan
In front of an emotional home crowd, Chengdu Tiancheng said goodbye to League One in style with a dominating 4-1 win over Xinjiang Dabahuan Nahuan. Brice Jovial scored his thirteenth goal of the season to give Tiancheng the lead in the 24th minute before 21-year-old Shandong Luneng loanee Luo Senwen doubled their tally three minutes later.
Chengdu added a third early in a second half which saw the introduction of 40-year-old local hero Yao Xia. Apart from two years spent in Qingdao in his early thirties, Yao has been in Chengdu for the entirety of his 23 year career and he added to the poignancy of the day when his 76th
minute penalty made him the oldest ever Chinese goal scorer in the professional leagues. It was a positive ending to an awful season for Chengdu but it will ultimately do little to gloss over a future which will either see them toiling away in the obscurity of League Two or out of business altogether. For the good of Chinese football, most will be hoping that a resurgent Chengdu team will be returning to the professional leagues sooner, rather than later.
Guangdong Sunray Cave 1-2 Beijing Institute of Technology
Guangdong Sunray Cave fell to defeat in their final game in the south-eastern province before relocating to Shaanxi next year. BIT’s Han Guanghui opened the scoring on 11 minutes before Li Xiang added a second two minutes before half-time. It was Li’s fourteenth goal of the season and means he is the second highest Chinese goal scorer in the top two leagues behind only Wang Dong of Chongqing Lifan.
In the second half, the Guangdong players looked to impress their new owners with an improved performance which was rewarded when half-time substitute Cai Jingyuan pulled a goal back in the 60th minute. However, a comeback didn’t materialise and the game became increasingly bad tempered. BIT held on to their lead but both sides failed to hold on to all of their players as a pair of red cards saw the game finish as a 10-a-side.
As well as being disappointed by the defeat, home fans were also unhappy that their side didn’t field an all-Cantonese team to take on the Beijingers in their last hurrah in the region.
Foreign players Mahama Awal and former BIT forward Danilo Peinaldo both started a game which encapsulates a season of disappointments for a Guangdong team that have slumped from finishing just three points off promotion in third last year to finishing just four points clear of relegation in thirteenth this year. Meanwhile, their university based opponents, completed another solid season with a second consecutive ninth placed finish in their seventh straight year of second tier football..
Qingdao Jonoon 4-1 Hebei Zhongji
In the other Qingdao vs Hebei clash of the day, Jonoon hammered Zhongji in a game that had much less riding on it than the match in Shijiazhuang. Having secured their survival last week, Hebei had little to offer a team who were two leagues above them last season and Qingdao took advantage to run out comfortable winners and guarantee themselves a fifth-place finish. Zhu Jianrong’s 5th minute opener was followed by a 44th minute Wang Jun penalty which gave Jonoon a 2-0 half-time lead. Wang Wei’s 53rd minute goal extended the lead further before former Manchester United striker Dong Fangzhuo reminded everyone that he is still a professional footballer when he pulled one back for the visitors on the hour mark. Two minutes later, Wang Junpo grabbed Qingdao’s forth to round off what has been a tumultuous 2014 for the Shandong side.
Hunan Billows 3-2 Yanbian Quanyang Spring
In another game with nothing riding on it, Hunan Billows saw off the already relegated Yanbian Quanyang Spring in Changsha. A Yanbian handball gave Luiz Carlos Cabezas the opportunity to open the scoring from the penalty spot in the 16th minute and the Colombian didn’t disappoint when he slotted into the bottom left corner to grab his fourteenth goal of the season.
The former Dalian Aerbin forward scored his second of the game just two minutes later before Korean national Kim Do-Hyung gave Yanbian hope with a 24th minute strike. Eleven minutes after the break Hunan one again gave themselves a two-goal lead when Liu Xinyu netted from outside the area to make it 3-1. The 63rd minute saw Liu Renjie score a second for the Jilin side but they were unable to equalise and were lucky not to be further behind when Hunan substitute Liu Shuai hit the bar late on.
It’s a sad end to Yanbian’s ten year stay in League One and caps off a miserable season which has seen them acquire just three wins and 18 points – the lowest total ever in a thirty game League One campaign. Based in a “Korean Autonomous Prefecture” the team is largely comprised of ethnic Koreans and has a sizable Korean fan base that gave them the fourth highest average attendance of the season despite the shoddy on field performances. They will be hoping that their decent support and strong local identity will give them a sufficient platform to launch an immediate return from League Two next season.
Shenyang Zongze 0-0 Tianjin Songjiang
A mid-table battle saw Tianjin Songjiang play for over 45 minutes with 10 men and still hold on for a 0-0 draw. Despite the result it shouldn’t be presumed that this game was just two teams with nothing to play for going through the motions.
Both sides created plenty of chances and the passion on show was illustrated in the 39th minute when a fracas over a challenge that left Shenyang’s Liu Huan grounded led to Tianjin’s Mario Lucio being sent off. Just before half time, Tianjin were fortunate not to be reduced to nine men when Lucio’s fellow Brazilian Nei appeared to kick out an opponent. He escaped with a verbal warning and Shenyang were unable to capitalise on the continuing one man advantage and win the game.