League One: 10-man Harbin battle to 1-1 Draw with Hebei and Round 19 Preview
This week’s preview includes a full report of Harbin Yiteng’s re-arranged clash with Hebei CFFC as well as a look ahead to the weekend’s matches. 10-man Harbin showed a lot of fight in holding Hebei to a draw as both sides face, theoretically, easy home matches this week. Third place Beijing BG’s trip to eighth place Wuhan Zall is the weekend’s only game between two sides in the top half, but there is plenty of room for surprises as we move into the business end of the season.
Harbin Yiteng 1-1 Hebei CFFC
Harbin played with ten men for almost an hour but were still able to hold an under performing Hebei to a draw. It took Yiteng left back Li Xudong just 33 minutes to pick up two yellow cards but the home side fought hard and looked as though they may have grabbed all three points when debuting striker Juan Nunez put them in front in the 73rd minute.
The Colombian had only been on the pitch for twenty minutes and, although he appeared a little off the pace at times, he linked up well with Bu Xin whose pinpoint cross gave him an easy header in the midst of some absentee Hebei defending.
However, the lead lasted just seven minutes as Ibba Laajab knocked on a corner to allow Edu to open his account with Hebei following his big money move from Jeonbuk Motors. As in his debut the previous week, the Brazilian failed to dazzle on the field, but could hardly miss with a two yard header into an open goal.
Following Li’s dismissal, Hebei had been unable to make their advantage count and you’d have been forgiven for thinking that both sides were playing with an equal number of players. Midway through the second half the hosts began to show signs they were tiring, but that didn’t last long as Nunez’s goal reawakened them and it was only some slack set-piece defending which ultimately cost them three points.
Given a disastrous training session the evening before, Hebei had some ready made excuses for their poor performance. The practice was held in the Harbin ICE Centre Stadium, but the field hadn’t been prepared properly following the weekend’s A-Mei concert which led to the match being delayed by three days.
Reportedly, the stage had not yet been taken down, the goals had not been erected and the pitch markings had yet to be redrawn. To make matters worse, several Yiteng fans were able to enter the stadium and followed up their hurling of abuse with the hurling of bottles – one apparently striking Hebei manager Radomir Antic’s translator.
The training session was cut short and this undoubtedly put a dampener on Hebei’s preparations. However, the Qinhuangdao side seem to have another issue and that’s an imbalance in the squad following Edu’s arrival.
The Brazilian played up top with lofty centre forward Laajab being pushed out to the right in order to accommodate. As well as the Norwegian not being well suited to play on the wing, this also means there is now no place for the impressive Song Wenjie in Hebei’s attack.
As it stands, Edu is not seeing enough of the ball to do anything useful with it and, consequently, Hebei look inefficient in attack. Nenad Milijas’s long passes from deep in the midfield being uncharacteristically wayward certainly didn’t help matters.
Still, Harbin showed an impressive work ethic even if they were not rewarded with the three points they perhaps deserved. The real winners here were Beijing BG, Qingdao Jonoon and Yanbian Changbaishan who got to sit back and witness their promotion rivals deny each other three points.
Round 19 Preview
Shenzhen FC vs Yanbian Changbaishan
When these two sides drew 1-1 in Yanbian earlier in the season, it was seen as two dropped points for Shenzhen. But in light of the teams’ divergent fortunes since then, fans of the southern side would happily take that result if it were offered to them this weekend.
In a battle between South Korean managers – Yanbian’s Park Tae-ha and Shenzhen’s Lee Lim-saeng – who have had very different seasons, everything here points to an away win. Shenzhen will try to take comfort in the fact that they scored their first win in ten last week with the attacking trio of Babacar Gueye, Andre Senghor and Kim Young-hoo starting together for the first time. But that was against an exhausted Beijing Institute of Technology and Yanbian are a very different proposition.
This is also the first time Yanbian have had to hit the road in a month and it’s a very long journey with which to commence their travels. Despite that, and the absence of suspended midfielder Li Xun, it’s difficult to see anything other than an eighth win in nine for the visitors. Prediction 1-3
Hebei CFFC vs Qingdao Hainiu
Hebei will look to get their faltering campaign back on track when the low scoring Hainiu come to town. The Shandong side have managed to net just sixteen times all season and are still recovering from the shock of Goran Gogic’s death a few weeks ago.
Their Serbian attacker Dorde Rakic should be available for this game after returning home for his friend’s funeral, but it remains to be seen whether he will start. Meanwhile, Hebei’s efforts to synchronise their struggling attack will be assisted by the absence of Hainiu centre back Wan Houliang through suspension.
It’s unlikely that Hebei’s attack will have fully clicked into place by the time of this match, but the good news is that outscoring a team that averages less than one goal a game is not too difficult. Hebei should be able to do that and stop themselves falling further behind in the promotion chase. Prediction 1-0
Wuhan Zall vs Beijing BG
Saturday night sees a match in Wuhan between two teams travelling in very different directions. Zall are now seven without a win, while BG have revived their flagging promotion hopes by securing ten points from their last four games.
This is Zheng Xiong’s first home game in charge of Zall since replacing Zheng Bin and it will be interesting to see if he starts with crowd favourite Brice Jovial on the bench as he did in Dalian last weekend. Meanwhile, BG could hand a debut to Montenegrin centre back Nikola Vujadinovic who arrived from Spanish second division side Osasuna last week.
Last season, a key feature of the fixture was the relentless booing and heckling of BG’s former Guo’an midfielder Lu Jiang for his involvement in the on-field scuffle which ultimately led to previous Wuhan side Guanggu disappearing from the league (more on that here). Considering the drab 0-0 that this game turned out to be earlier in the season, the harassment of Lu, justified or not, could be one of the few things keeping fans entertained.
Unfortunately for the home support, BG have gotten much better since then and may have too much for the hosts on their return home after a month on the road. Prediction 1-2
Qingdao Jonoon vs Tianjin Songjiang
Songjiang roll into Qingdao to take on a Jonoon side unbeaten in six and looking like serious contenders for promotion. The hosts could hand a debut to new Brazilian signing Rogerinho and will fancy their chances against a Songjiang side that may have lost some of their recent mojo following a home defeat to Hunan Billows. Prediction 1-0
Harbin Yiteng vs Guizhou Zhicheng
Zhicheng will be a very long way from home when they travel to take on Harbin, but will be able to take heart from some solid away performances against some of the division’s top sides this season. Last weekend they became the first visitors to score two goals in Yanbian this season to build on a record that has seen them thump Jonoon 5-1 in Qingdao and achieve draws in Dalian and Hebei.
Harbin’s ten men worked very hard to achieve a draw with Hebei on Tuesday night and they will be without two of their starting back four – centre back Liu Yi and left back Li Xudong – through suspension. Rodrigo, who returns to the club he played for last year, will be one of the Zhicheng attackers looking to take advantage of Yiteng’s diminished back line but eleven goal hitman Yves Ekwalla Herman poses more of a direct threat having netted twice last week against the stingy Yanbian defence.
Harbin are unbeaten at home this season and have only lost once in 2015. However, too many of those results have been draws and Zhicheng may just have enough to cause their hosts to drop another two points this week. Prediction 2-2
Hunan Billows vs Dalian Aerbin
Dalian travel to Changsha having picked up just one point in a five game run that has seen them score only twice. It’s unsurprising that both of those goals have come from Brazilian attacker Bruno Meneghel but with big Swedish centre forward Mathias Ranegie failing to get on the score sheet for over a month and a half, it is clear that Dalian’s once prolific attack is struggling.
Conversely, while it can hardly be described as prolific, Hunan’s front line has shown signs of life in recent weeks with Luis Cabezas managing to find the net in each of the last three games. The win over Tianjing Songjiang last weekend should play a big role in motivating Billows against their struggling opponents, although the absence of goalkeeper Dong Jianhong through suspension may be keenly felt. Prediction 2-1
Xinjiang vs Beijing Institute of Technology
Xinjiang will be looking to recover from their first home defeat of the season when the embattled BIT come to Urumqi. Given the hectic schedule faced by the majority of BIT’s first team thanks to their involvement in other student competitions, it’s difficult to see Xinjiang facing a similar fate this week.
This fixture ended 5-2 last season and there have been 15 goals in the last three meetings between these clubs, so it’s reasonable to expect plenty of goals here. With Cristian Danalache displaying an emphatic return to form in recent weeks, it looks likely that most of those goals will come from Xinjiang. Prediction 4-1
Hohhot Zhongyou vs Jiangxi Liansheng
This game is a repeat of the 2014 League Two final which Jiangxi won 2-0, but it would be a great achievement if the visitors could match that result this time around. Bottom of the table with just two wins all season, Liansheng have rarely been comprehensively beaten by their opposition, but have been unable to achieve the results they have perhaps deserved.
A case in point is their 2-1 home loss to Hohhot earlier in the season. The hosts do have centre back and influential captain Jonas Salley suspended but Liansheng will be without key midfielder Xian Tao for the same reason. Jiangxi could suffer another narrow defeat here which pushes them closer to the mire. Prediction 1-0
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.