North-East Focus: Yatai take down Guizhou; Dalian win but lose out on promotion
The last round of the season saw most of the dongbei teams involved in some kind of end of season battle, with only Yanbian fighting for pride in their dead-rubber match against Jonoon. Harbin and Changchun were both safe in their respective leagues but had the opportunity to put their opponents to the sword and consign them to relegation. Liaoning took on SIPG in a battle that concerned either end of the table while Dalian were desperate for three points and a CFFC loss to lift them back into the top-flight.
Changchun consign Guizhou to relegation with last minute goal
Yatai’s last two matches have been fairly uninspiring, with Tot’s men conceding five goals and scoring zero against Shanghai based teams Shenhua and SIPG. It seemed likely that they would easily fall to a third straight defeat against Renhe who were desperate for the three points to give them a fighting chance of a last minute escape from the relegation zone.
Things started just as expected, 15 minutes in Guizhou were 1-0 up as Ricardo Santos scored after Yatai keeper Wu Yake flapped at a Xavier cross. Guizhou looked on top of the game throughout the first half and were rewarded with another goal just before the break after Misimovic chipped a ball into the box and Zhang Chenglin wrestled off Sun Jie to score from a tight angle. 2-0 up and the fans were ecstatic, it looked like they were on their way to completing the great escape.
In the second half they came back with the energy of the first 45 minutes not subsiding and after two minutes Santos almost made it three after he latched on to a lovely through ball from Misimovic but smashed his shot straight at Wu Yake. On 54 minutes, a bizarre goal from Yatai striker Maazou put Changchun back in the game. He found himself out on the right, whipped in what we can assume was a cross and watched as the ball went goalwards and slipped under Renhe keeper Zhanglie at the near post. Both teams seemed really up for it at this point, with Moreno hitting the post and Feng Renliang missing a wonderful chance to give his team a two goal cushion. A regretful moment for him as ten minutes later, in injury time, a well worked free kick and a lovely finish from substitute Elek saw Yatai snatch a draw and break Guizhou’s heart as they were consigned to relegation.
Yatai finish the season in 10th place, which may seem like an improvement given the last couple of years’ flirtation with relegation but that would be an illusion. After the draw with Guizhou, they have 35 points (just three more than they racked up in 2013 and 2014) and sit just four points above the mess at the bottom of the table. Is Tot the man to push them higher up the league next season?
Liaoning fall to SIPG but escape relegation mess
Liaoning will be feeling very grateful to their North-eastern counterparts Yatai after they relegated Guizhou and left Whowin out of the mess that would have occurred if four teams had finished on 31 points. Two wonder goals from both sides showed that the two teams were desperate for the three points but SIPG managed to grab the winner just before the break.
Whowin grabbed the opener as Sun Shilin blasted a goal into the top left corner after the SIPG defense allowed the ball to roll out to him at around 30 yards out. Unbelievably, eight minutes later it was SIPG’s turn to wow the crowd with a screamer from Dario Conca. After picking up the ball directly from a throw in on the right hand side, he took a touch and smashed it across the box into the left hand side of the goal to send the Shanghai crowd wild. Just before the half time, Yu Hai whipped in a ball from the left that Whowin keeper Zhang Lu could only palm away into the path of Cai Huikang who put it into the net from five yards out. In the second half SIPG saw some great chances go begging, Davi Rodrigues even hitting the post. It all would have been in vain though as Evergrande secured a 2-0 win over Guoan to grab the title.
Liaoning end the season in 12th position with 31 points, two points above relegated Guizhou. Goals have been a problem this season, Whowin are the joint second lowest scoring team alongside Shenxin, with only Hangzhou below them. Derick Ogbu is the team’s top scorer, but he only bagged eight goals in 27 appearences himself. Winter recruitment will be essential for the Panjin team.
Dalian win their battle but lose the war with CFFC
A 2-0 win against Tianjin wasn’t enough to secure a dream return to the top-flight for Aerbin as Hebei CFFC got the three points they needed against Shenzhen to finish the season in second place. However, allegations of match fixing from the coastal team might put that promotion in jeopardy as Dalian prepare to release evidence that they say prove their claims.
Niklas Backman and Bruno Meneghel scored two second half goals to get the three points they needed, unfortunately the latter goal came around the same time as Zhang Lifeng had just put Hebei 2-0 up against Shenzhen, ultimately ending Dalian’s promotion hopes.
Their first defeat of the season seems to be the main culprit in their failed attempt at promotion, given it was against CFFC back in May. Four back to back defeats in June and July also didn’t help but their recent 13 game run without losing (while only conceding three goals) has shown what they are capable of.
Although they didn’t reach their goal of promotion, it’s been a wonderful season for the club. They finish with the second highest goal difference in the league, mainly thanks to having the best defense in the league, only conceding 22 goals in their 30 games.
Manager Mikael Stahre looks set to leave as his contract nears its expiration date and center-back Backman is rumored to be moving back to Sweden in the winter. It would be a shame if the hard work of this season is undone by the departure of key individuals, and with money not being an issue, it seems a winter of recruitment lies ahead in order to prepare for another promotion campaign next year.
End of season anticlimax for Yanbian as they fall to defeat in Qingdao
Yanbian ended their season slightly disappointingly as Park Tae-ha’s men succumbed to a 1-0 defeat against mid-table Qingdao Jonoon. Deivdy Reiss grabbed the winner after 14 minutes to give his club only their second win in thirteen games.
Although he was one of the only regular starters included in the match-squad, striker Ha Tae-goon was unable to add to his tally at the top of the goal scoring table. Steve Trawally was brought on later but couldn’t find what would have been his nineteenth goal of the season.
It may be a disappointing way to end such a wonderful season but the fans will hardly care, their attention is firmly on next year and the Super League campaign.
Injury time madness as Yiteng take on Hunan Billows
An injury time equalizer from Yiteng’s Li Xin looked set to put Hunan down but a last minute header from Li Xiang kept them up in what transpired to be two minutes of madness in Yiyang.
This was always going to be a tricky match for Harbin. They had secured 5th place the week before with a 1-0 victory over Wuhan and Hunan were desperate for the points given their position as relegation candidates. Would Harbin roll over for the Yiyang team?
Hunan got off to a dream start, Carlos Cabezas giving them the lead just 13 minutes after kick-off. They looked set to defend their lead and secure safety when they reached the 90 minute mark without conceding. However, when Bu Xin found himself on the left and whipped in a cross, Hunan panicked and allowed Li Xin to convert, putting themselves in jeopardy. With only a couple of minutes of stoppage time left, Hunan launched a hail-Mary and unbelievably managed to score with a header from substitute Li Xiang. The crowd went absolutely ecstatic and some wonderful scenes followed as the players realized they were going to enjoy another year as a League One team.
Harbin’s recent issues have been widely publicized and it will be interesting to see how the club moves forward after things calm down. The fans want players and coaching staff gone, while Yiteng’s position as a Dalian based company might make the situation seem untenable. We’ll have to wait and see how this all plays out over the next few months.