League One Round 12 Wrap: 5-star Guizhou Hammer Jonoon as Yanbian and Hebei Pull Clear at the Top
Guizhou Zhicheng grabbed the round 12 headlines with a demolition job in Qingdao, although it’s Yanbian and Hebei who are pulling away at the top of the table. A clash of old Super League foes in Dalian was one of five draws this round, but there were still enough goals, red cards and penalties to create another entertaining week in China’s second tier.
Qingdao Jonoon 1-5 Guizhou Zhicheng
Zhicheng stunned everyone at the Qingdao Tiantai Stadium with a comprehensive victory over a faltering Jonoon. It took Zhicheng’s Yves Ekwalla Herman just six minutes to find the net in the city where he played last year with Hainiu and, ten minutes later, the Cameroonian striker assisted Lian Chen who bagged a second.
Things went from bad to worse for the hosts when Li Zhuangfei was sent off in the 24th minute. The 27-year-old committed a foul as the last man and had seemingly cost his team any chance of a comeback. But, four minutes after the break, Deivdy Reiss gave Jonoon hope with a long range goal.
The hosts chased an equaliser, but Ilhamjan Iminjan sealed the win by scoring in the 71st minute. Two very late goals from Li Yinjian inflated the scoreline and confirmed a win which carries Zhicheng up to the dizzy heights of twelfth in the table.
Jonoon’s capitulation, along with last week’s 3-1 reverse in Hebei, means that they have now conceded more in their last two games than they had in their previous ten. Something is clearly wrong on the Shandong peninsula and that will have to be righted quickly if Qingdao are to remain serious contenders for promotion.
Beijing BG 0-1 Yanbian Changbaishan
A 76th minute Li Xun strike was enough for Yanbian to overcome BG and pull clear at the top of the table. The hosts were punished for wasting several opportunities, with Carmelo Valencia being particularly culpable. However, Yanbian, who started the game without attackers Steve and Ha Tae-goon, were well organised and did just enough to defeat their big spending opponents.
Steve was suspended, but Ha was introduced at half-time after being left on the bench with a minor injury. The South Korean striker was heavily involved in the goal as it was his being tackled in the penalty area which led to the ball spilling to a grateful Li. The 23-year-old didn’t waste his chance and his goal means that Yanbian are now one point ahead of Hebei at the summit of League One.
Yanbian’s unlikely early season unbeaten run has been treated as a great story, but few have actually been considering them as genuine contenders for a place in the Super League. This result, coupled with last week’s home win over Dalian, means that they now have to be considered serious promotion prospects. It’s still relatively early days, but the fascinating idea of the Korean Autonomous Prefecture being represented in the top tier of Chinese football looks increasingly closer to becoming a reality.
Dalian Aerbin 2-2 Harbin Yiteng
Dalian twice came from behind to share a point with 2014 Super League rivals Harbin. The visitors’ preparation for the game was overshadowed by the news that manager Duan Xin was temporarily returning to his old job at the Shenyang City Sports Bureau. The club stated that the 53-year-old Duan planned to come back to Yiteng but, until he did so, Gai Zengjun would take over as interim manager.
It’s a curious set of circumstances to be surrounding a professional football team, but it didn’t seem to effect the players as it took just eight minutes for Li Xiaoting to give Yiteng the lead. Li profited from some poor goalkeeping by Liu Weiguo and home fans had to wait until two minutes before the break to see their side restore parity thanks to Bruno Meneghel. The Brazilian missed last week’s defeat in Yanbian, and showed his value to the team by netting his ninth of the season.
In the 65th minute, Wang Dalong put Harbin back into the lead, but big Swedish striker Mathias Ranegie levelled things up again five minutes later thanks to an assist from Meneghel. The result preserves both Aerbin’s unbeaten home record and Yiteng’s undefeated season, but also means they are falling behind in the promotion race.
Harbin have now drawn an incredible two-thirds of their matches this season and slip down to sixth. Meanwhile, Dalian drop out of the top two for the first time in 2015.
Jiangxi Liansheng 1-4 Hebei CFFC
Hebei returned to the top two thanks to a dominant second half display against struggling Jiangxi. The hosts took the lead in the 31st minute when left back Zhang Kaiming reacted fastest to Adi Rocha’s blocked shot.
Liansheng played well for the remainder of the first period but nine minutes after the interval they had been pegged back thanks to another Nenad Milijas set piece. Two of Hebei’s goals last week came direct from Milijas corners, and this week it was Song Wenjie who converted one of the Serbian’s excellent deliveries with a header.
In the 62nd minute, the talismanic 32-year old found the net himself courtesy of a free kick. The former international’s whipped ball was actually supposed to be a cross, but it went just over everybody, including wrong-footed Liansheng goalkeeper Tang Yun, and crept in at the back post.
From that point on, it looked like there was only going to be one winner and Song Wenjie all but sealed the three points when he scored with a scuffed effort following an Ibba Laajab cross. Luo Senwen then hit a long range stoppage time strike to punctuate a third Hebei win on the bounce.
Hebei’s upward trajectory into the promotion places is neatly counterbalanced by Jiangxi’s continuing struggles. The League Two champions only win in their last eight games was their surprising 4-0 mauling of CSL side Liaoning Whowin in the CFA Cup.
Those other seven matches have all been league games, and that terrible run of form means they are now bottom of the table for the first time in eight weeks. With three quarters of their matches so far played at home, it looks like it’s going to be a difficult summer for the boys from Nanchang.
Wuhan Zall 1-1 Beijing Institute of Technology
A soft 78th minute penalty denied Wuhan a fourth straight victory and the chance to move into the promotion places. BIT’s Wang Erzhuo had sent an under hit free kick into the penalty area and it innocuously bounced on to the arm of a Wuhan player. The referee pointed to the spot and Andres Marquez stepped up to score his eighth of the season.
The controversial spot kick cancelled out Wuhan’s 65th minute goal which came when Brice Jovial headed in a Rafa Jorda cross. Two late penalty shouts for challenges on Jovial added to Wuhan’s sense of injustice, but it never would have come to that had they made their earlier dominance pay.
Jorda squandered a guilt-edged opportunity in the eighth minute and Jovial hit the bar four minutes later. Right winger Liu Yun shot wide when through on goal seven minutes after the break and Wuhan were made to pay later.
Unsurprisingly, Zall boss Zheng Bin disputed the penalty decision after the match, while his opposite number Yuan Wei thought the referee was correct. Aside from the referee’s big call, Yuan was also undoubtedly grateful for Wuhan’s wastefulness in front of goal as it meant his team managed to avoid conceding at least three goals for the first time in four matches.
Xinjiang 2-2 Hohhot Zhongyou
A stoppage time equaliser from Hohhot striker Dori snatched a point for Hohhot in Urumqi. The Brazilian had given his side the lead in the 11th minute thanks to an assist from Guo Sheng, but a header from Cristian Danalache a minute before half-time pegged back the visitors.
It was a league leading tenth of the season for the Romanian striker and things got even better for the local fans when home province hero Shewket Yalqun scored from long range seven minutes after the break. It was the former under-22 national team winger’s first goal for the club since arriving on loan from Guangzhou Evergrande last winter. However, Dori’s late heroics assured that any post-match celebrations were tempered.
The outcome keeps Xinjiang’s unbeaten home record in tact, but also means they still haven’t won a match since knocking Guangzhou Evergrande out of the CFA Cup last month. After a bright start to the season, Hohhot are now winless in four. A string of home matches over the summer means there’s probably not much chance of being sucked into a relegation battle, but this poor recent run has pretty much ended any hope of achieving back to back promotions.
Tianjin Songjiang 0-0 Qingdao Hainiu
Hainiu substitute Li Kai missed an open goal six minutes from time to waste the best chance of a scoreless game in Tianjin. Brazilian winger Mario Lucio was dismissed in stoppage time for a second booking as his Songjiang team continue to rue the absence of injured compatriot Nei. The veteran striker has missed the last nine games through injury and manager Goran Tomic has strongly hinted that he will be seeking a replacement in the summer transfer window.
The Croatian remains unbeaten in four games in charge, but all of those contests have ended in draws. This result hoists Songjiang above Jiangxi Liansheng and off the bottom of the table for the first time in five weeks. But Tomic’s side are now 10 without a win and that elusive three points will need to arrive soon in order to avoid spending 2016 in League Two.
Hunan Billows 1-1 Shenzhen FC
Hunan goalkeeper Dong Jianhong was the hero as he saved Babacar Gueye’s 65th minute penalty to preserve a point for his team. Liu Yusheng had given the home side the lead on 31 minutes when he headed in an Igor Burzanovic cross but, three minutes after the break, Andre Senghor bagged his fifth of the season to even things up.
When Shenzhen captain Gueye was given the chance to win the game from the spot, most would have backed the prolific forward to score. However, Dong was equal to the task and his heroics follow on from an excellent display which maintained Hunan’s lead in Guizhou last week.
The penalty miss continues what has hardly been a vintage year for the Senegalese hitman. A return of five goals in twelve games is far from paltry, but more has come to be expected from a player that had netted 63 times over the previous three seasons.
The draw is certainly a better outcome than Shenzhen achieved just up the road last week where they were hit for six by Wuhan, but the missed penalty leaves a sour taste. Hunan, who were missing suspended centre back and captain Stevan Bates, may regret not building on last week’s win in Guizhou, but at least they’ve managed to avoid defeat for two games in a row for the first time this season.
Author: Jamie McIlroy
Based in China for five years, Jamie has been exploring tiny little third tier Hubei cities without football teams or decent internet connections, but is now a regular at China League One side Wuhan Zall.
A keen football afficionado, he regularly takes in the Chinese Super League, enjoying matches in Shanghai, Hangzhou, Guangzhou and Nanjing.
Jamie is also a keen observer of the fortunes of the Chinese National side.