Dalian Aerbin and Nei Mongol Zhongyou kicked off under a beautiful red sunset, but there was no shepherd’s delight for Aerbin manager Mikael Stahre, his side losing 0-1 in a contest that saw exponentially more fizzy drinks thrown onto the running track than attempts on goal for the home side.
Both sides started the match brightly, with a number of dangerous crosses put into the Zhongyou box early on. Nei Mongol’s Wang Yunlong was particularly eye-catching, forcing Aerbin goalkeeper Zhang Chong to parry his sharp volley behind for a corner. Wang was the centre of much of the action in the early stages, but was substituted with an injury after tangling with Dalian left-back Eddy Francois. Wang’s piggybacked removal, carried around the perimeter of the pitch by a teammate, was the first indication of the farce this match would eventually become.
Shortly after Wang’s substitution, Nei Mongol’s Brazilian striker Dori produced the fixture’s true moment of quality, curling a shot into the top corner past Wang Chong from just outside the box on 43 minutes.
The usually energetic Dalian support was silenced by Dori’s goal, but regained their verve during a halftime performance by a local pop star, the fans holding their phones aloft with camera flashes alit. As the pop star’s performance concluded and he retreated from the playing surface for the start of the second half, a strange lull fell over the stadium.
The first half hour of the half passed without incident, Aerbin’s strategy of pumping long balls up the pitch failing to pay dividends. The home side were clearly missing the tall, muscular presence of Swedish striker Mathias Ranegie, scorer of a sublime goal against Harbin Yiteng in the previous home fixture. Mikhael Stahre proceeded to take the view that any Swedish striker is better than no Swedish striker, and commanded center back Nicklas Backman to join the attack for the remainder of the match.
As the half wore on, the uneventfulness appeared to afflict the referee, who failed to spot his linesman flagging a Dalian attack offside, even as Zhongyou players and coaching staff attempted to get his attention. Play continued for what seemed an eternity, and eventually the referee signaled for a corner. Just before the ball was launched into the box, the linesman finally managed to attract the referee’s attention.
The corner kick annulled, Backman was one of a number of Aerbin players to react furiously. Fans began to throw seat cushions onto the running track, a tradition usually reserved for the final whistle. Soon, the football match made way for a throwing contest, with cheers going up when fizzy drinks exploded on the running track, spattering the military policemen watching over the crowd.
With such chaos in the stands, there was little attention paid to the football match in the backdrop. Aerbin continued to launch long balls into the box. Backman produced an ill-conceived overhead kick that did little more than bruise the head of a Nei Mongol defender, but, still fuming, reacted angrily to the award of a free kick to Nei Mongol. With the chant of Hei Shao (black whistle) echoing around the ground, one fan struck the linesman with a coin.
By this point, the game was in its final death throes, and the animation emptied from the crowd when a group of policemen made their presence known by the exits. The referee blew for full time and the 6,150 strong crowd – filling barely ten percent of the Dalian Sports Arena – turned their backs on the field one last time and made for the buses.