League One Round 13 Wrap: Yanbian Keep on Rolling; Wins for Jiangxi, Hunan & Songjiang Spark Relegation Fight
This week, Yanbian Changbaishan kept their place at the top with yet another win over a near rival, but Hebei CFFC, Dalian Aerbin and Qingdao Jonoon all kept pace. At the bottom, Jiangxi Liansheng scored a huge win in Guizhou, Tianjin Songjiang got their first victory in a long time and Hunan Billows continued their revival. This meant that round 13 was unlucky for Shenzhen FC, Xinjiang and Beijing Institute of Technology who all tasted defeat and are now part of a bottom seven clubs separated by just three points.
Yanbian Changbaishan 2-0 Wuhan Zall
Two first-half strikes from Ha Tae-goon were enough to seal a third straight win for Yanbian and consolidate their position as league leaders in front of over 27,000 fans. It took the South Korean just two minutes to rifle in an opener and he got his second courtesy of a 38th minute penalty after Liu Shangkun had felled Jailton Paraiba.
The strikes mean that Ha once again tops the League One goal scoring charts with eleven for the season, and a lot of attention is now turning to whether or not he will extend his loan from Suwon Bluewings. The 27-year-old’s time in Yanbian is due to end next month and talks to lengthen it are reportedly ongoing.
However, the striker, “affectionately dubbed “the nuclear warhead” by Yanbian supporters, is not the only South Korean at the club making headlines. Head coach Park Tae-ha’s role in guiding Yanbian to the top of the table has been attracting media attention in his native country, but the 47-year-old is still managing expectations. Before the season he stated that his side were League One’s weakest team and after this game he modestly refused to backtrack on that statement.
Opposite number Zheng Bin must be dying for a team as “weak” as Park’s and he said he was very unhappy with Wuhan’s performance. However, he was also full of praise for Yanbian’s tactics, and noted how much they had improved since Wuhan defeated them 4-1 towards the end of last season.
Indeed, while Ha has been banging in the goals, another reason for Yanbian’s success can be found at the other end of the pitch. Yanbian have the league’s best defensive record, having conceded ten all season, and have kept three clean sheets in a row against divisional heavyweights Dalian Aerbin, Beijing BG and Wuhan, respectively.
Yanbian let in a league high 58 goals on their way to relegation last season and so the turn around is significant. A major part of that is the central defensive partnership of Cui Min and, former Guangzhou R&F player, Zhao Ming. But Park obviously deserves an enormous amount of credit for organising many of last season’s players into a solid defensive unit.
Park’s statement that nobody in League One is weaker than his side is clearly nonsense, but he’s right not to get carried away. On paper, his team is certainly nowhere near being the strongest in the league and a summer transfer window which sees Ha depart and rivals bolster their ranks is a real possibility.
Even if that doesn’t happen, it’s hard to imagine Yanbian retaining this form for the remainder of the season. However, there’s no reason for the Korean Autonomous Prefecture not to enjoy the ride and, as this week’s huge attendance suggests, there are plenty of people doing that.
Guizhou Zhicheng 1-4 Jiangxi Liansheng
Jiangxi ended a seven game winless run with a surprising rout in Guizhou. Zhang Zhichao gave the visitors the lead in the 35th minute and Adi Rocha doubled the lead five minutes after the interval when he struck from the halfway line. It was the Brazilian’s second long range spectacular of the season, although a stumbling goalkeeper bears most of the responsibility for this one.
Adi grabbed his second of the day from much closer range in the 61st minute and Wang Jianwen completed the rout eleven minutes later. Yves Ekwalla Herman helped Zhicheng save some face with a late goal, but the damage was already done.
No one saw Zhicheng’s 5-1 away victory over Qingdao Jonoon coming and no one saw this result coming either. Following the game, Zhicheng manager Chen Mao bemoaned the continued absence of attacker Rodrigo, but the Brazilian was also out injured during last week’s game. It may simply be that Zhicheng are wildly inconsistent and not particularly good at home.
The win wasn’t enough to lift Jiangxi off the bottom but it does mean that they are now just three points away from being tenth. After the match, Liansheng head coach Huang Yan said Jiangxi had an 80% chance of beating the drop. That may still be a little optimistic, but the odds are certainly better than they were this time last week.
Beijing BG 2-0 Harbin Yiteng
A penalty and a defensive error were enough to give BG victory over a struggling Harbin side. This game was originally supposed to take place in the Ice City, but both teams agreed to reverse the dates of their home fixtures. That didn’t stop a large group of Yiteng fans from travelling to the game and they were often more vocal than the home support.
BG had the better of the early exchanges and were rewarded when Darko Lazovic was clumsily fouled by Liu Yu in the penalty area just after the half hour mark.. The Serbian converted the spot kick himself and BG went into the interval with a one goal lead.
In the 61st minute, Yiteng went very close to an equaliser when Li Xin headed against the post, but the game was put beyond them four minutes later when Carmelo Valencia capitalised on a miscommunication between centre backs. Under pressure, Wang Dalong looked to play a pass to substitute Yu Tao who failed to anticipate it. Valencia raced on to the loose ball and showed great composure to round goalkeeper Bai Xiaolei and slot into the empty net.
The Colombian’s strike was poignant as, prior to the game, BG manager Aleksander Stanojevic had stated an interest in changing some of his foreign players during the summer transfer window. When it was pointed out to him post-match that both foreign attackers had scored, the former Guo’an boss remained non-committal and simply stated that any decision couldn’t be based on just one game.
BG remain fifth and five points adrift of the top two. Stanojevic claims his side have been playing well, but a failure to convert chances has cost them. Valencia’s return of just four goals this season suggests the Serbian may be right and, with the club willing to invest plenty of money, we may yet see some new arrivals in the capital this summer.
Hohhot Zhongyou 0-1 Tianjing Songjiang
A single goal from Zhang Wei was enough to end Songjiang’s dreadful run of ten games without a win. Zhang struck in the 42nd minute, following an assist from Wang Jie, and his side were able to hold on against a Hohhot outfit missing suspended attacker Wang Yunlong.
As well as being Hohhot’s first home defeat of the season, the result also gives Goran Tomic his first win as Songjiang boss. The Croatian took over from compatriot Drazen Besek last month and had drawn all four of his games in charge.
The result is made all the more impressive by the fact that Tomic was missing suspended winger Mario Lucio and perpetually injured striker Nei. Songjiang remain in the relegation zone, but are now just two points behind tenth placed Hunan Billows.
Beijing Institute of Technology 0-1 Hunan Billows
A 24th minute free kick from Igor Burzanovic free kick gave Hunan a victory that allowed them to climb above their opponents in the table. BIT were missing suspended eight-goal striker Andres Marquez and his absence was keenly felt as they failed to find the net for only the second time this season.
However, Hunan were also without their own top scorer, Li Xiang, who didn’t play against the club he left last winter. With Colombian striker Luis Carlos Cabezas also out injured, Billows were thankful that Burzanovic was able to step up and give them the win. The former Montenegren international’s strike broke Hunan’s extended run as the only team in this season’s League One not to have a foreign player find the net.
BIT’s failure to come back in a bad tempered second half means they are now have just one win in their last eleven games. After a bright start to the season, the “Student Army” are in a downward spiral and just two points above the relegation zone.
Qingdao Hainiu 0-2 Dalian Aerbin
Bruno Meneghel was the difference as Dalian overcame Hainiu to stay in touch with the top two. The Brazilian gave his side the lead with a 57th minute free kick and then set up teammate Cui Mingan who doubled the lead nine minutes before the end.
Following a career disrupted by injuries, it was the 20-year-old Cui’s first goal for the club and, after the game, he spoke of his desire to return to the Olympic team squad in time for next year’s Under-23 Asian Championship. As encouraging as the 20-year-old’s rise may be, Hainiu coach Su Maozhen only wanted to talk about one player in the contest’s aftermath. The former China international gave Meneghel all the credit for downing his side and said they were effectively beaten by one man.
Indeed, Bruno has been impressive this year, managing ten goals and five assists in eleven starts. However, Su may want to look a little closer to home for reasons his side lost. Hainiu have the league’s worst strike rate, with just eleven goals in thirteen game, and were unable to capitalise on a man advantage gained in the 74th minute when Mathias Ranegie was sent off for kicking out at Jiang Tao.
It’s also worth noting that the game’s kick off time was pushed back from 3pm to 7pm at fairly late notice thanks to a Stefanie Sun concert held in the stadium the night before. The delay was caused by the extra time needed to deconstruct the stage and, while it’s at least good news that they didn’t just leave it up, it reportedly left the pitch in a woeful condition.
Hebei CFFC 2-0 Xinjiang
Hebei made it four wins on the bounce with a comfortable victory over Xinjiang. Song Wenjie set the tone in the 4th minute when he headed in a Zhu Haiwei cross and Nenad Milijas confirmed the win with a 68th minute penalty that was his fifth successful spot-kick of the season.
Hebei’s expected win keeps them in second and pushes Xinjiang closer to the bottom two. The Urumqi side are now six without a win and sit one point above the relegation zone.
Shenzhen FC 1-2 Qingdao Jonoon
A last minute goal from substitute Ismael Beko Fofana gave Jonoon victory in front of over 13,000 fans in Shenzhen.
The Shandong side took the lead on 27 minutes when 19-year-old Zhong Yihao scored his first professional goal thanks to an assist from Zhu Jianrong. Shenzhen then looked to have salvaged a point in the 79th minute when Cai Jingyuan equalised, but the large crowd was left disappointed when Deivdy Reiss set up Fofana’s late winner.
The result puts Jonoon back on track following two big losses, but it throws Shenzhen right into the relegation mire. Wins for Jiangxi Liansheng, Tianjin Songjiang and Hunan Billows mean Shenzhen now sit just one place and one point above the bottom two.
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.