League One Round 23 Wrap: Stalemate in Hebei, Harbin go second and Yanbian return to winning ways
The promotion race remains on a knife-edge as Harbin Yiteng, Dalian Aerbin, Hohhot Zhongyou and Qingdao Jonoon all win to take advantage of goalless draw between Hebei CFFC and Beijing BG. Meanwhile, Yanbian Changbaishan return to winning ways to keep themselves ahead of the chasing pack. At the other end of the table, no teams in the bottom half managed to win in a low scoring week featuring three 0-0 draws.
Harbin Yiteng 3-0 Xinjiang
A brace from Li Xin contributed to a comfortable victory which moves Harbin up to second in the table. Li struck in the 29th minute and added a second four minutes after half-time when he dispatched the rebound from Ji Xiaoxuan’s saved shot.
Li Jiahe completed the rout in the 59th minute and better finishing may would have seen the home side win by a more substantial scoreline. This was Harbin’s fourth win on the bounce and comes on the back of their monumental 3-0 triumph over Yanbian Changbaishan last weekend.
Xinjiang have been woeful in recent weeks and have now conceded 13 in their last three league games, and 16 in four including the CFA Cup. Significantly, Cristian Danalache failed to score for the first time in eight league games and Xinjiang will be hoping to turn things around with a run of home games coming up.
Indeed, Harbin came into this game without important attacking players Bu Xin and Ricardo Steel, but they needn’t have worried as Xinjiang offered little opposition at the end of an arduous week in which they had travelled from Hunan to Urumqi to Harbin.
Yanbian Changbaishan 2-0 Qingdao Hainiu
Yanbian made an immediate return to winning ways thanks to a controversial Ha Tae-goon penalty and a deft finish from Steve. The win, played out in front of 28,000 fans, comes on the back of last week’s maiden defeat of the season in Harbin, and extends Yanbian’s lead at the top to eight points.
The home side’s breakthrough came in highly disputed fashion when Hainiu centre back Han Qinsong was adjudged to have tripped Jailton Paraiba in the penalty area three minutes before half-time. Han, returning to the club he left in 2011, appeared to make minimal contact and the awarding of a penalty prompted furious protest from Hainiu manager Sun Xinbo.
After a kerfuffle lasting nearly six minute, Ha Tae-goon was finally able to take the spot kick and scored his 19th goal of the season despite Liu Peng diving the right way. There could be no complaints about the second goal, though, as Steve ran on to a low cross and left Liu Peng helpless when he flicked the ball behind his standing leg in one fluent movement.
The Gambian’s 73rd minute strike was his 14th of the season and sealed a victory that restores Yanbian’s table-topping credentials. Following last weekend’s 3-0 defeat, there was much speculation over whether this would be the beginning of the end of Yanbian’s fairy tale journey to the League One title.
However, their always down-to-earth manager Park Tae-ha had been quick to put things in perspective by saying that if Barcelona could lose 4-0 to Bilbao, it was not unreasonable for his side to lose 3-0 to Harbin. Park was proved correct, but their opponents were a Hainiu team that is now winless in nine and the league leaders will face stiffer tests in the coming weeks.
Hebei CFFC 0-0 Beijing BG
What should have been one of the season’s big games turned into somewhat of a damp squib as Hebei and BG toiled to a goalless draw in poor conditions. This was Li Tie’s first game in charge of Hebei after taking over from the deposed Radomir Antic last Tuesday, but his debut in the dugout was delayed by an hour as heavy rain pushed back the kick-off time.
The highlight of the match was a 21st minute Nenad Milijas free kick which struck the crossbar but, in the end, both sides had to settle for a point that does neither of them any favours. Considering that they were on the road and were coming off of a mid-week CFA Cup quarter-final win over Guizhou Renhe, BG will be happier to settle for a point, but their failure to claim all three points means their spot in the promotion places has been usurped by Harbin Yiteng.
For Hebei, the consequences are worse as they now find themselves in seventh place – six points adrift of Harbin. With reports surfacing that the club will have to pay off the remaining two and a half years of Antic’s €3 million-per-year contract, it is clear that this is not what the owners envisaged when pouring so much money into the team.
All is not lost, though, as Hebei still have a game in hand against the struggling Beijing Institute of Technology. A win there will reduce the deficit with second to just three points, but Li Tie will have to turn around a run of just two wins in nine games in order for his side to remain in contention.
Guizhou Zhicheng 0-1 Dalian Aerbin
A long range free kick from Bruno Meneghel proved the difference as Dalian kept themselves in the thick of the promotion race with their fifth consecutive win. The Brazilian struck his 14th of the season three minutes before the break and a defence that has now gone six without conceding a goal held out to secure the win.
Dalian’s excellent recent run means they are now just one point behind second placed Harbin Yiteng and have given themselves a real chance of an immediate Super League return after looking dead and buried a couple of months ago. Conversely, Zhicheng look to be in some difficulty having lost their last three and going six without a win. The team had been overachieving earlier in the season, but are in real danger of getting sucked into the relegation zone if they don’t turn their form around soon.
Beijing Institute of Technology 0-2 Hohhot Zhongyou
Dori’s 87th minute strike was Hohhot’s third late goal in as many games, but it wasn’t a winner this time as Wiiliam Paulista’s 62nd minute effort had already given them the lead. The win is Hohhot’s fifth in a row and means they have now taken 22 points from the last 24 available and sit just two points adrift of the promotion places.
The form of their opponents couldn’t be more different as BIT have taken one point from their last six games and have won one of their last fourteen matches. To make matters worse, midfielder and influential captain Han Guanghui was injured and may miss the rest of the season as his side battle to turn around their form and climb out of the relegation zone before it’s too late.
Qingdao Jonoon 3-2 Hunan Billows
Deivdy Reiss played a key role in all of Jonoon’s goals as they defeated Hunan to remain on the periphery of the promotion race. Things started badly for the hosts when Carlos Cabezas gave Hunan a 7th minute lead after pouncing on a corner.
The lead lasted 19 minutes until Deivdy Reiss fired a long range effort at Hunan keeper Dong Jianhong who ought to have done better than just to parry it into Wang Wei’s path. Wang lifted the ball back towards the empty goal, giving Guo Liang the chance to level with an easy close range header.
Just two minutes later, Deivdy Reiss beat his man on the right wing and played a cross which deflected off of Hunan captain Stevan Bates and into the net for an own goal. In the 70th minute, Deivdy Reiss was able to get a goal of his own when he was set up by Zhang Yihao and, although Yao Jingshan was able to pull one back with a penalty just a few minutes later, that proved enough to win the game.
The result means Jonoon are have narrowed the gap between them and second place to five points and they still maintain faint hopes of promotion with seven games remaining. Hunan remain a perilous three points above the relegation zone, but can take some solace in the fact that they have managed six goals in their last two games having bagged just 17 in their previous 21.
Shenzhen FC 0-0 Tianjin Songjiang
There was a stalemate in Shenzhen as the home side failed to pick up a win in a game in which they should have been targeting three points. Shenzhen remain just three points clear of Beijing Institute of Technology, who have two games in hand, and their manager Lee Lim-saeng seems to be struggling for answers.
The South Korean has overseen a run of just one win in fifteen games and in the post-match press conference said he was willing to resign if that’s what the fans and the club’s owners wanted. The point will be more acceptable to Songjiang boss Goran Tomic as his team claw their way into the top ten for the first time since the second week of the season.
Jiangxi Liansheng 0-0 Wuhan Zall
Jiangxi claimed a point at home to Wuhan, but failed to find the goal which could have seen them climb off the bottom of the table. With Wuhan head coach Zheng Xiong effectively writing off the season and largely focusing on the development of young players in the final weeks, the pressure was on Jiangxi who are fighting for their League One status.
In the event, the breakthrough wasn’t forthcoming and Jiangxi are still one point behind Beijing Institute of Technology and four points from safety.
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.