With the Super League again on hiatus, League One took centre stage this week and it didn’t disappoint with exciting matches, surprising results, controversial incidents and another managerial change. The game of the week was in Hohhot here Zhongyou and Yanbian Changbaishan played out a five goal thriller, but there was also a major upset in Qingdao where Hainiu beat Harbin Yiteng. Qingdao Jonoon were involved in a surprise of their own with a loss in Xinjiang as Dalian Aerbin and Hebei CFFC both earned important victories. There was even a shock at the bottom of the table where ten-man Beijing Institute of Technology won away to Tianjin Songjiang and there was less surprising news that Shenzhen FC now have their third manager of the season. If all that’s not enough, we also include a preview of couple of important rearranged fixtures that will take place next week while the rest of the league takes a well earned break.
Hohhot Zhongyou 2-3 Yanbian Changbaishan
League One’s biggest crowd of the year was treated to a thrilling, if ultimately disappointing, spectacle as Jailton Paraiba’s stoppage time winner undid a two goal comeback from the hosts. Hohhot’s excellent recent form and a match against table topping opposition helped attract over 38,000 fans to the Hohhot City Stadium, but things looked bad for Zhongyou as they found themselves 2-0 down in less that twenty minutes.
In fact the hosts started well against a side missing suspended centre back Cui Min, and they almost took the lead in the 11th minute when William Paulista’s header forced an excellent save from Chi Wenyi. But a sustained period of Hohhot pressure came to an end three minutes later when Li Shuai gave the ball away cheaply to inadvertently launch a Yanbian counterattack.
A though ball from Jailton Paraiba initially led to Steve striking the underside of the bar, but Ha Tae-goon was able to pick up the rebound and cross back in for the 20-year-old forward to head Yanbian in front. The second goal came five minutes later when Jailton Paraiba struck from just outside the area following a near backheeled layoff from Steve whose recent excellent form has been rewarded with a first ever call-up into the Gambian national squad for their upcoming African Cup of Nations qualifier against South Africa.
Despite being 2-0 down, Zhongyou didn’t give up and William Paulista pulled one back with a backheel of his own five minutes before the break. Deng Hanwen had headed a free kick back across the box, and the the Brazilian was able to stab the ball in with his back to goal.
In the 84th minute, William Paulista looked to have earned Hohhot a draw when he met a corner with a powerful header. It was the in-form forward’s sixth goal in four games, but compatriot Jailton Paraiba was not to be outdone.
The former Shanghai Shenxin winger first won a stoppage time corner when he forced Hohhot goalkeeper Han Fangteng into a fine save following a surging counterattack. After the corner had been worked to the edge of the Hohhot penalty area, he then got a glancing header onto the end of a cross to beat Han at the second time of asking.
It was a painful way for Hohhot to end their eight game unbeaten streak, but also shows the resilience of a Yanbian side that many speculated would struggle to recover from a 3-0 loss in Harbin two weeks ago. Following a 2-0 victory over Hunan back in June which consolidated Yanbian’s position at the top of the table, head coach Park Tae-ha said we should wait until round 24 until we start talking about the club making it to the Super League. Well, round 24 is now over and with the club now nine points clear at the top with just six games remaining, it’s fair to say that talk of Yanbian being in 2016’s top flight is no longer speculative.
This defeat has no doubt harmed Hohhot’s own Super League ambitions as they now sit four points adrift of second place Dalian Aerbin. However, with half of their remaining six games coming against the teams directly above them in the table, they’re still in with a shot if they can show the sort of resolve that almost got them a result this time around.
Wuhan Zall 1-2 Hebei CFFC
Hebei took advantage of some slack first half defending to build up a 2-0 lead and then held out against a second half rally to win a game that ended with chaotic scenes thanks to a stoppage time penalty awarded to the hosts being overruled by the assistant referee’s offside flag.
With Wuhan manager Zheng Xiong continuing his emphasis on youth development, three of Wuhan’s back four were born in 1995 and it didn’t take long for Hebei to expose their inexperience. In just the second minute, 20-year-old centre back Han Xuan got caught under a high ball allowing Edu to run in behind him. Under pressure from Randsford Addo, the Brazilian still had a lot to do and he lifted a perfectly weighted lob over goalkeeper Sun Shoubo to give Hebei the lead.
On a terrible pitch, neither side managed to get much of a rhythm going, but Han almost gifted Hebei a second in the 34th minute when he passed the ball straight to Ibba Laajab. On this occasion, the youngster was able to recover and make a last-ditch block of the Norwegian’s shot but, just three minutes later, Laajab was running at Han again and, after a couple of nifty turns, had given himself enough space to fire off a shot that was good enough to double Hebei’s lead.
Five minutes after half-time, Edu was able to out-muscle 20-year-old right back Ming Tian in the penalty area before turning and firing off a close range shot that forced Sun into an excellent save. Eight minutes later, Wuhan pulled a goal back when Yao Hanlin took advantage of some awful positioning from Hebei goalkeeper Yang Cheng to strike in a free kick from an angle he had no business scoring from.
With Hebei anticipating a cross, Yang left a huge gap at his near post without a wall to cover it. Yao showed quick thinking to blast the ball straight into the vacant space and spur a Wuhan fightback that almost earned a stoppage time point.
In the final minute of the allotted five, Cheng Jin, another 20-year-old playing in the midfield, played a pass into Brice Jovial in the penalty area. The ball struck the striker’s heel just as he looked to have been impinged by Yang Wenji, and Cheng Jin also went to ground as he tried to pick up the rebound under pressure from Du Wei.
The referee blew for a penalty for one of the infringements but what he and very few others in the stadium had noticed was that the assistant referee had already raised his flag to indicate that Jovial was offside from the initial pass. After consulting with his assistant, the referee indicated that an offside had been given sparking a furious reaction among Wuhan’s players, staff and supporters who already felt aggrieved that the officials had been giving a lot of favourable decisions to Hebei.
The offside call was marginal, but the assistant referee had raised his flag a few seconds before either Jovial or Cheng Jin went to ground and so the referee was absolutely correct to go back on his original decision. That didn’t stop the officials from being surrounded in a threatening manner by Wuhan players after the game and a slew of bottles raining down on them as they exited the field.
Ultimately, the result will have little bearing on Wuhan’s season, but it is a vital win for Hebei who now sit five points behind second place Dalian Aerbin with a game in hand. That game comes next Saturday against Beijing Institute of Technology and will be previewed below.
Qingdao Hainiu 1-0 Harbin Yiteng
An early goal from Wang Quanhong gave Hainiu a shock victory over Harbin to seriously dent the visitor’s promotion hopes. Wang headed in a Shi Zhe cross less than three minutes in and Hainiu held on in a game that became increasingly bad tempered towards the end.
Hainiu manager Sun Xinbo was serving the first of a three game touchline ban after kicking water bottles while disputing a Yanbian Changbaishan penalty last weekend, but his temporary replacement Geng Zhiqiang oversaw Hainiu’s first victory in ten attempts. To earn it, though, the home side resorted to increasingly transparent time wasting tactics, including Shi Zhe comically stumbling around like a drunk in order to avoid leaving the field after spending time on the ground nursing an “injury”.
The testy nature of the match reportedly led to a post-match scuffle in the tunnel which resulted in Harbin manager Duan Xin skipping the press conference. Duan sent a young press officer in his place who alleged that members of Hainiu’s staff had thrown punches in the post-match fracas.
The defeat was Harbin’s first in eleven games and they have now slipped behind Dalian Aerbin into third. Hainiu’s win takes them up to 28 points and helps allay fears that they may get sucked into a late season relegation struggle.
Dalian Aerbin 1-0 Shenzhen FC
An 80th minute strike from Sun Guowen gave Dalian a sixth consecutive victory to propel them into the top two for the first time since round eleven. The goal came from a Sun Bo cross after Dalian, without suspended centre forward Mathias Ranegie, had struggled to break down a well organised Shenzhen side who took to the field under their third head coach of the season.
Earlier in the week, it was announced that South Korean boss Lee Lim-seung would be stepping down to “have a rest” after suffering physically due to the stress of the job. Lee remains on the Shenzhen staff but has been replaced in the hot seat by Li Haiqiang.
The 38-year-old former Hong Kong international had been working as a fitness coach, but now has the job of steering Shenzhen to safety. That is looking like an increasingly arduous task as Shenzhen are only clear of the relegation zone based on their superior head-to-head record against Beijing Institute of Technology who still have two games in hand.
For Dalian, things are looking increasingly bright. Six straight wins, seven games without conceding a goal and increasingly swelling home attendances point to a side that should probably now be considered favourites to bag second place behind Yanbian Changbaishan.
Tianjin Songjiang 0-1 Beijing Institute of Technology
BIT played with ten men for nearly 70 minutes, but were still able to secure a surprising victory thanks to a 58th minute Andres Marquez header. Having picked up just one point from their last six games, BIT looked destined for another difficult afternoon when Jing Xuan was sent off in the 21st minute for an overzealous tackle on Mario Lucio.
But Songjiang, who have now failed to score in four of their last five games, were unable to take advantage and Marquez headed in his eleventh goal of the season from a corner. Despite the win, BIT remain in the relegation zone based on their head-to-head record, but have two games in hand that they will play over the coming two weeks while the rest of the division takes a break for the upcoming internationals (those games will be previewed below).
The result is a blow for Songjiang who probably still need to pick up two wins from their last six games to guarantee survival. That is vital for new owners Quanjian Natural Medicine who plan to invest heavily in the club this coming winter.
Following the game, outgoing Songjiang chairman Li Weiqi said goodbye to the fans as he left the club he has been involved with on and off since 2007. Things are certainly changing at Songjiang, but more results like this could still see the club slip out of the second tier in what would be a disaster for their wealthy new owners.
Hunan Billows 3-1 Jiangxi Liansheng
Hunan overcame an early Jiangxi goal and a sending off to bag a vital win in their battle for survival. Zhai Zhaoyu put the visitors ahead in the 14th minute when he headed in a Wang Jianwen free kick, but Yao Jiangshan equalised twenty minutes later.
Things looked bad for the hosts when Liu Chao was shown a second yellow card midway through the second half, but Jiangxi were unable to capitalise and found themselves behind when Igor Burzanovic struck in the 80th minute. In stoppage time, Chen Zijie provided an assist for Carlos Cabezas who sealed Zikica Taveski’s second win in four games as Hunan head coach.
Each of Taveski’s wins has come at home and both have taken place in the city of Yiyang where Hunan occasionally play as an alternative to provincial capital Changsha. Significantly, Hunan have shown a continuing ability to find the net under their Macedonian boss as they have now grabbed ten goal in his four games at the helm, having managed just sixteen in their previous twenty matches.
With Beijing Institute of Technology winning, Jiangxi are now four points adrift at the bottom of the table and look to be in serious trouble. They have taken just five points in the eight games since Sun Wei replaces Huang Yan as head coach, and time for turnaround is rapidly running out.
Xinjiang 1-0 Qingdao Jonoon
An 84th minute goal from Cai Xi was enough for Xinjiang to see off ten-man Jonoon and leave the Shandong side seven points adrift of the top two. The visitors had been a man down for over 45 minutes after Rogerinho picked up a second yellow card in the 39th minute, when Wang Kang provided the assist for Cai to end Xinjiang’s three game losing streak.
With Harbin Yinteng and Hohhot Zhongyou losing, and Beijing BG not playing, a victory here would have kept Jonoon’s promotion chase alive. In the event, Xinjiang proved that their recent losing streak, during which they conceded thirteen goals, had more to do with all of those games being on the road than an inherent loss of form.
The win means that Xinjiang have now reached the 30 point mark which will probably be sufficient for survival. With 24 of those 30 points coming in Urumqi, they also now boast the division’s fifth best home record.
Beijing BG vs Guizhou Zhicheng – Postponed until September 23rd
As mentioned in our round 24 preview, this game has been postponed until September 23rd due to a combination of preparing for next week’s glorious military parade and the World Athletics Championships putting a strain on security in the capital.
Preview – Rearranged Matches
Most of the league will be taking its first international break of 2015 next week, but there are still two big games to look forward to with connotations at both ends of the table. Thanks to half of Beijing Institute of Technology’s squad being shipped off to South Korea at the end of June to represent China at the World University Games, they face two matches next week while everyone else is taking a nice relaxing break.
Beijing Institute of Technology vs Hebei CFFC – Saturday September 5th
On paper, this should be Hebei’s to lose, but BIT produced a major upset when they beat their much wealthier opponents on the opening day of the season, and it’s not beyond the realms of possibility for them to do it again. Having just picked up a first win in seven games away to Tianjin Songjiang, confidence should be high but Hebei also seem to be improving under new manager Li Tie and they picked up their first away win in six attempts against Wuhan yesterday.
The major change that Li Tie seems to have made from the team of previous manager Roda Antic is a switch from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-1-2. After Hebei signed Edu in July, Antic pushed Laajab, who is an out and out centre forward, onto the right wing where he had little success. Li Tie has sought to accommodate both his foreign strikers by playing them up front together with creative fulcrum Nenad Milijas just in behind them.
The price of the change has been a loss of width, but against a team that still boasts the worse defense in the league in spite of yesterday’s clean sheet, one would expect Hebei’s attacking trio to do some serious damage. BIT’s top goalscorer Andres Marquez has a chance to score against the team that let him leave last winter despite the fact he managed thirteen goals for them. With Marquez in the team, BIT always have a goal threat, but that may not be enough to deny Hebei a victory that would take them to within two points of the top two. Prediction 1-3
Guizhou Zhicheng vs Beijing Institute of Technology – Tuesday September 8th
After taking on Hebei, BIT make the long trip to Guiyang to battle Zhicheng in what is the very definition of a relegation six pointer. Currently, Zhicheng are just one point above BIT, although they could theoretically be below them by the time this game kicks off should the “Student Army” get a result against Hebei.
In the second week of the season, BIT won this fixture 2-0, but yesterday’s win over Songjiang was just their third since then with Zhicheng claiming five victories over the same period. Something else to bear in mind is that thanks to this weekend’s match against Beijing BG being called off, Zhicheng would have had a rest of over two weeks by the time BIT role into town.
Whether or not that will leave them fresh or rusty is yet to be seen, but it can’t do too much harm for a team that’s winless in six to have a little time to recuperate. A hard game to call, but with both teams struggling at the back and already competing in some thrillers this year, whose to say supporters won’t be treated to a high scoring draw. Prediction 3-3
We’ll have a round-up of these games in our round 25 preview.