Dongbei focus: Yanbian return to top league after 16 years, Yatai struggle against Greentown
This week saw three dongbei sides back in action as the 2016 Super League season kicked off. Changchun and Liaoning were hoping to kick-start their respective campaigns with three points after a disappointing finish last season. Newcomers Yanbian Fude were looking to make a good first impression and continue their fairytale as they took on Shenhua in their first ever Super League match.
Shanghai Shenhua 1-1 Yanbian Fude
Ha Tae-goon’s second half goal wasn’t enough for Yanbian as they gave away a late penalty in what will feel like two dropped points for the league’s new boys.
A slightly shaky start from Yanbian provided a couple of prime chances for Shenhua to capitalise, Demba Ba and Guarin both missing early chances to put themselves on the score sheet. Chances were few and far between for Yanbian in the first half, with Pei Yuwen striking a hopeful effort from long range only to see it go well wide of Li Shuai’s goal. The half ended with Demba missing another golden opportunity when he failed to convert Lv Zheng’s pass from six yards out.
The second half would prove to be a different story. Eight minutes after the break, Ha Tae-goon latched onto new signing Chi Zhongguo’s long pass from deep and coolly finished to give Yanbian the lead. Their first ever Super League goal restored the confidence from last year and they went on to dominate the second half. Ha Tae-goon could have made it 2-0 just three minutes later when he got onto the end of Jiang Hongquan’s cross, but his effort was weak and was picked up easily by Li Shuai. A mistake from Shenhua defender Kim Kee-Hee allowed winter signing Kim Seung-dae to break but his cross couldn’t quite find Ha Tae-goon who was waiting in the box to grab his second of the night. Yanbian’s biggest chance came on 61 minutes when Ha Tae-goon rolled a cross behind Shenhua’s back line to pick out Kim Seung-dae who somehow failed to grab a debut goal after he hit it well high from six yards out. It would prove to be a costly miss when three minutes from time Sun Jun used his arm to stop a Kim Kee-Hee header inside the box. It was a silly mistake and there were no arguments when the referee awarded the penalty. Demba Ba confidently converted and grabbed the hosts a rather undeserved point.
Yanbian can take heart from this game and know they have the ability to upset the odds and surprise a few of the division’s bigger teams this season. The Korean trident of Ha Tae-goon, Kim Seung-dae and Yoon Bit-garam look an exciting prospect and should offer up some memorable performances as the season goes on. Their next game is just up the road in Nanjing where they will face a tough test against big spending Jiangsu Suning.
Shijiazhuang Ever Bright 0-1 Liaoning Whowin
A powerful free kick from new signing Assani Lukimya was enough for ten-man Liaoning to get all three points in Hebei on Sunday.
A mediocre first half of football saw chances for both teams but it was 25 minutes in that Whowin had a major shout for a goal. Yang Shanping got onto the end of a whipped corner and powered a header toward goal only for it to be saved on the line by Ever Bright goalkeeper Guan Zhen. James Chamanga pounced and poked the ball back towards goal where, according to video replays, it appeared to cross the line. It was very difficult for the officials to see and in the end the goal wasn’t given.
The second half continued as the first had ended with a few decent half-chances falling to Whowin but it was not until the 71st minute that the deadlock was broken. Liaoning’s new signing from Werder Bremen, Lukimya, got a dream debut as he stepped up and powered a low, hard free kick from around 35 yards out into the bottom left corner. It was a wonderful strike from the Congolese defender and it ultimately came at just the right time as just a few minutes later Zheng Tao got himself sent off for a second bookable offence. Liaoning managed to hold on for the remainder of the match to secure all three points.
After last season’s disappointing finish it’s up to Ma Lin to turn Whowin’s fortunes around. A complete change of foreign players (bar James Chamanga) should aid the cause and it seems they have captured a good talent in Lukimya. Shijiazhuang had an extremely good home record last season so it’s encouraging to see Whowin come here and pick up full points. They travel to Shandong next to take on Luneng this Friday.
Hangzhou Greentown 2-1 Changchun Yatai
A Tim Cahill penalty helped Greentown sink an uninspiring Yatai side in their opening game of the season.
It took just three minutes for Changchun to find themselves 1-0 down when Chen Po-Liang smashed in Feng Gang’s pass from the center of the box. Fifteen minutes later, debutant Yaki Yen clattered into the back of Chen inside of the box and there was no hesitation from the referee in awarding the penalty. Tim Cahill stepped up and converted from the spot to grab himself a debut goal. It wasn’t until deep in the second half that Yatai finally managed to hit the back of the net through Moreno’s header. A cross from Zhang Xiaofei on the far left side found Moreno who got up high enough to fire a header across goal and put Yatai back in the game. He Chao almost managed to grab a point for the Jilin side when his 87th minute strike hit the post, only to bounce back into Zhang Lei’s hands.
A fairly uninspiring performance from Yatai and it seems new manager Slaviša Stojanović has his work cut out if he’s to help the club improve on last year’s performance. It’s hard to see them getting anything out of their next game, an away trip to Guangzhou Evergrande.