League One Round 25 Wrap: Big surprises as Songjiang win in Yanbian and Shenzhen hammer BG
League One returned from its first weekend off of the season with a bang as round 25 featured some massive shocks, big wins and plenty to talk about. Tianjin Songjiang gave table-topping Yanbian Changbaishan their first defeat of the season, while Shenzhen FC stunned everybody by hammering Beijing BG. Dalian Aerbin and Hebei CFFC both claimed comfortable wins that were further sweetened by a draw between promotion rivals Harbin Yiteng and Hohhot Zhongyou. Jiangxi Liansheng show signs of life with an important win during a week that also includes a record breaking goalkeeper and no less than four missed penalties.
Yanbian Changbaishan 0-1 Tianjin Songjiang
An early goal from left back Zhang Cheng and a second half penalty save from Wang Yun were enough for Songjiang to pull off a huge upset by handing league leaders Yanbian their first home defeat of the season. After a neat through ball from Mario Lucio, Zhang took advantage of Yanbian left back Jiang Hongquan’s failure to clear to score his first goal of the season in the 11th minute.
Aided by a combination of a well organised 5-4-1 formation, disciplined defending, blatant time wasting tactics, an out of sorts Yanbian and Wang’s double safe from a Ha Tae-goon penalty, Songjiang were able to hold on for a famous victory that all but guarantees their survival.
Following their goal, the visitors frustrated Yanbian by defending with everybody except on loan Guangzhou R&F striker Zhang Shuo behind the ball. Ha, who has nineteen goals this season, had a poor game despite hitting the post a few minutes before half time, while Jailton Paraiba, who supplied the cross for Ha’s woodwork bound effort, and fellow winger Steve worked hard without creating many clear cut opportunities.
Jailton Paraiba did get an opening around the hour mark which was wasted because the ball got stuck under his feet. However, Yanbian’s real opportunity came in the 70th minute when Jin Bo won them a penalty. The substitute went down very easily as Songjaing’s Juan Bolanos made an unnecessary attempt to kick the ball away with Jin’s back to goal.
There was minimal contact, but it was sufficient enough for the referee to give the home side a spot kick. Ha’s weak initial effort didn’t require an especially remarkable safe from Wang, but the follow up stop he made with an outstretched foot as Ha tried to make amends on the rebound was very impressive.
Despite dominating possession, Yanbian struggled to create chances and Songjiang right back Zhang Wei should have doubled his side’s lead a few minutes before the end, instead of dragging a close range shot wide at the end of a quick counterattack. The win was massive for Songjiang and must have been particularly enjoyable for head coach Goran Tomic who recently learned he will be out of a job at the end of the season thanks to the appointment of Vanderlai Luxemburgo.
Though far from exciting, Songjiang defended excellently against the league’s most prolific attack in what was a classic underdog away team performance. For their part, Yanbian played well below expectations, but still maintain an eight point gap over third place Hebei CFFC and look likely to go up.
Unfortunately, the whole event was marred somewhat by the post-game nonsense of a large group of Yanbian fans surrounding the Songjiang team bus as it tried to leave the stadium. The supporters were apparently upset about Songjiang’s somewhat relaxed approach to taking set pieces or getting up off the floor whenever the opportunity to take a lie down arose.
While irritating for both opposition fans and neutrals alike, Songjiang’s manipulation of the clock was nothing unusual to Chinese football and certainly didn’t warrant their bus being delayed by over half an hour and reportedly having one of its windows smashed. With reports that the smattering of Songjiang fans in attendance also had objects thrown at them later in the game, one hopes some of Yanbian’s fans can learn to lose a bit more gracefully in the future.
There’s a lot of good will towards Yanbian with most neutrals hoping they get promoted as an underdog that will give the Super League a bit of variety. However, some fans may have been spoiled this year by the team’s success and are likely to taste defeat a lot more often in the top flight next season. Hopefully, this incident was just a one off caused by the frustration of seeing the Super League dream delayed a little bit longer than expected.
Shenzhen FC 3-0 Beijing BG
Two goals from Babacar Gueye helped Shenzhen to a shocking 3-0 win that has serious ramifications at both ends of the table. The Senegalese striker poached a 36th minute goal after teammate Cai Jingyuan’s shot was blocked and then headed in a corner eight minutes into the second half.
Cai got on the score sheet himself in the 62nd minute to complete the unlikeliest of routs over a side whose promotion ambitions are now in serious jeopardy. Because of their round 24 match being called off due to preparations for the military parade and there being no League One games last weekend because of international fixtures, BG had three weeks to prepare for an opponent that had won just one of their last sixteen matches.
In the event, Shenzhen, playing just their second match under new head coach Li Haiqiang, were able to secure a massive win thanks in no small part to a brace from their striker. Coming into this season, Gueye had won both the 2012 and 2013 League One Golden Boot and bagged 62 goals over three years. Before this game, however, he had managed just seven goals all season and just two in his last four matches.
Shenzhen, who are now three points clear of the relegation zone, will be hoping that a Gueye return to form will coincide with an upswing in the team’s fortunes. It may be no coincidence that this win comes on the back of an apparent return to financial stability at the club which has seen an increase in the players’ win bonuses. It should be noted, though, that BG missed several chances to score and may have won the game much earlier had they been more clinical.
The capital city side are now an unhealthy six points behind Dalian Aerbin, although they do have a game in hand at home to Guizhou Zhicheng. In that kind of fixture three points should be a given but, based on this result, it now looks hard to be so sure.
Beijing Institute of Technology 0-3 Dalian Aerbin
Bruno Meneghel’s hat-trick kept the Dalian promotion bandwagon rolling, while heaping more misery upon strugglers BIT. The Brazilian struck in the 18th, 48th and 89th minutes to take his individual goal tally up to seventeen for the and give Dalian a seventh consecutive victory.
Apart from the former Qingdao Jonoon forward, it was Dalian goalkeeper Zhang Chong who grabbed the headlines as his side registered an eighth straight clean sheet and he broke the League One record for most consecutive minutes without conceding a goal. Zhang hasn’t let one in since Carmelo Valencia netted for Beijing BG in the 41st minute of their 1-0 round 17 victory over Aerbin.
The 27-year-old’s 774 minutes without shipping a goal eclipses the previous record of 732 minutes set by current Dalian reserve keeper Yu Ziqian at the beginning of the club’s successful promotion bid in 2011. It is also worth crediting Dalian’s back four of Eddy Francis, Nicklas Backman, Wang Wanpeng and Zhu Ting which has remained consistent throughout this run.
Swedish centre back Backman and left back Francis, who is the only Chinese-African mixed race footballer in the professional leagues, were both with the club last season, but right back Zhu and veteran centre back Wang arrived in the winter from Wuhan Zall and Changchun Yatai, respectively. Their run has been remarkable, but BIT will have been desperate to get something out of this game after squandering both of last week’s games-in-hand.
The “Student Army’s” leaky defence has now shipped eleven goals in their last three games as wins for Shenzhen FC and Jiangxi Liansheng have worsened their situation. The capital city side are now three points adrift of safety and just a solitary point above bottom side Jiangxi.
Harbin Yiteng 2-2 Hohhot Zhongyou
After a wild opening that saw three goals in seventeen minutes, neither of these sides was able to get the win needed to get their promotion chases back on track. It took Ricardo Steel just two minutes to put the home side in front, but two Lin Kun strikes meant Hohhot went into the break with a 2-1 advantage.
The 23-year-old’s 4th and 17th minute goals looked to have been enough to give Hohhot a precious victory until a 70th minute Bu Xin free kick fell to a grateful Wang Dalong who prodded home from close range. With Dalian Aerbin and Hebei CFFC both winning, the tie doesn’t satisfy either team, with Hohhot’s Super League aspirations looking particularly hopeless thanks to a six point deficit between them and second.
Aside from the result, other talking points from the match include Harbin centre back Yu Tao being dismissed for a second booking a few minutes before the end, a scuffle in the crowd being caught on camera and Hohhot striker Dori being withdrawn at half-time after receiving a less than favourable response from the supporters who cheered him on last season as he represented them in the Super League.
Hebei CFFC 3-0 Hunan Billows
An Edu brace helped Hebei stroll to a 3-0 victory which keeps them within two points of second place Dalian Aerbin. In the 14th minute, Edu was able to head in a Nenad Milijas free kick unmolested after peeling away from a napping Hunan defence.
Carlos Cabezas went close to equalising shortly after, but was denied by a fine Yang Cheng save. The result was sealed four minutes after half time when substitute Wang Quan leaped above a daydreaming Cao Huan to head in an Edu cross made possible by a fine run from Ibba Laajab.
Edu completed the rout when he scored his eighth of the season in the 69th minute as Hebei streaked to a third win on the bounce. The defeat means Hunan remain a precarious three points above the relegation zone with five games to play.
Jiangxi Liansheng 1-0 Qingdao Jonoon
Over a 11,000 fans turned out to sea Zhang Zhichao score an 89th minute which gives Jiangxi a lifeline in their battle for survival. The former Chengdu Tiancheng forward’s strike means the league’s bottom side are now just one point behind fifteenth place Beijing Institute of Technology and four points from the positions of safety occupied by Shenzhen FC and Hunan Billows.
As well as bringing delirium to those in attendance, Zhang’s late heroics also allowed Adi Rocha to breathe a huge sigh of relief after the Brazilian had seen his 67th minute penalty saved by Liu Zhenli. Jiangxi had had the better of the game against the side knocked out of promotion contention by last round’s defeat in Xinjiang, and it would have been typical of a season packed with narrow defeats for them to waste a penalty and miss out on a vital three points.
While they still have a lot of work to do, this result will bring hope to a side that had won just one of its last eleven matches. It also, perhaps, demonstrates that Jonoon’s season is over and we shouldn’t expect an awful lot from them in the remaining five matches.
Guizhou Zhicheng 0-1 Wuhan Zall
There was late drama in an otherwise uneventful game as Brice Jovial gave Wuhan a stoppage time victory just a few minutes after Zhicheng top scorer Yves Ekwalla Herman hit the bar with a penalty. With Wuhan firmly entrenched in mid-table, Zhicheng’s pressure relieving Wednesday night win over Beijing Institute of Technology took some of the sting out of this game.
Zhicheng still need at least one more win to guarantee their safety and so Herman’s penalty miss could still have repercussions during the end of season shake up. However, as it stands, this game looks to have been of little consequence other than to bring a youthful Wuhan side a step closer to a top half finish.
Xinjiang 2-2 Qingdao Hainiu
Xinjiang had to come from behind twice to preserve a record of just one league defeat at home in 2015, as these sides played out a mid-table battle with little at stake. Li Kai put the visitors ahead in the 20th minute before Xinjiang had a chance to equalise from the penalty spot five minutes later.
League One top scorer Cristian Danalache was, for reasons not entirely clear, eligible to play despite apparently picking up the fourth yellow card of the season during last weekend’s win over Qingdao Jonoon, but Xinjiang may have wished he wasn’t. The Romanian missed the penalty and the hosts had to wait ten more minutes for an equaliser which came courtesy of Rafael.
A Dorde Rakic header put Hainiu back in front midway through the second half, but Brazilian veteran Vicente came up with a header of his own in the 71st minute to ensure the game ended all square. Ultimately, results matter little for these sides at this stage, although Danalache will no doubt be frustrated to have missed a chance to strengthen his grip on League One’s Golden Boot.
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.