League One Round 1 Wrap: Quanjian and Yifang win, Beijing teams held, Transcending in Shanghai
One week after the CSL’s big kick-off, a fashionably late League One has decided to show up for another season of twists and turns. And the opening weekend didn’t disappoint with some promotion favourites picking up key wins, but others struggling to find their feet. There was late drama in Wuhan, a shock in Shanghai, an opening zzzzzeremony in Shenzhen and a mighty seven goals scored by Chinese players. It’s good to be back.
Qingdao Huanghai 0-3 Tianjin Quanjian
Quanjian justified their pre-season hype with a comprehensive win in Qingdao that will put the rest of the league on notice. Sun Ke opened the scoring in the first half and Luis Fabiano grabbed a brace in the second. With Geuvanio assisting Sun Ke’s strike and Jadson supplying both of Fabiano’s, it’s clear that Quanjian’s all new attacking quartet will be a force to be reckoned with this season.
Chinese international Sun slotted home in the 17th minute after a fine dribble and pass from Geuvanio played him in. There was a hint of offside about the opener, but no doubt about either of Fabiano’s strikes. The 35-year-old netted his first in the 59th minute when he connected with Jadson’s low cross and the two combined again in the 89th minute when the striker dispatched the playmaker’s delicately weighted through ball.
Quanjian had other chances with Fabiano and Sun Ke going close, but the big spenders didn’t have things all their own way. Another pricey signing, midfielder Zhao Xuri, mindlessly gave the ball away in the 4th minute, which allowed Ma Long to test China’s most expensive goalkeeper Zhang Lu in the Quanjian goal. More significantly than that, Huanghai had a pretty convincing penalty shout waved away when Zhang Wei appeared to pull Dorde Rakic back with the score still at 1-0.
That’s not to say that Quanjian may not have gone onto win anyway, but it may be too soon to see them as an all-conquering side that are guaranteed to maintain their current position at the top of the table.
Dalian Yifang 2-0 Zhejiang Yiteng
Second half goals from Sun Bo and Mohamed Bangura gave Yifang an opening day victory over the newly relocated Zhejiang Yiteng. The last time these clubs faced off was towards the end of last season when Yiteng were still based in Harbin. That game, played in the Ice City, ended 2-2 with home fans accusing their own club of deliberately conceding second half goals and setting off a sequence of events which ended with Yiteng making the long trip south to Zhejiang.
There was a little controversy here too as Yifang’s second was scored after Nyasha Mushekwi picked up Constantin Budescu’s pass in a marginally offside position before squaring for Bangura to score. By the time the Sierra Leone forward had scored, though, Yifang were already 1-0 up thanks to a defensive error from Li Xudong who allowed Sun Bo to score when he failed to clear Mushekwi’s knock on. During last season’s fixture in Harbin, Li would probably have been accused of making the error deliberately, but considering the fact he appeared to have been knocked unconscious by the knee of his own goalkeeper in the 4th minute, his lapse can be forgiven.
Between Sun Bo’s 57th minute strike and Bangura’s decisive second, both sides had good chances to find the back of the net. Yiteng keeper Bai Xiaolei produced a fine save to keep out Mushekwi’s point blank header and Li Gen dragged a shot millimeters wide at the other end. Eventually, Bangura’s strike sealed the win for Yifang who get their promotion push off to the best possible start.
Wuhan Zall 1-1 Beijing BG
A disputed stoppage time penalty cancelled out Carmelo Valencia’s sublime bicycle kick and earned Wuhan a draw which was the minimum they deserved. Valencia struck in the 83rd minute at the end of a rapid counter-attack, but were denied a smash and grab victory when Guto went down in the penalty area under pressure from Cui Zhongkai in the fifth and final minute of stoppage time. There wasn’t much contact, but the Brazilian made the most of it before picking himself up to cap an otherwise uninspiring debut performance with a goal.
Wuhan had much the better of the first half and their best effort of the opening 45 minutes came when Ke Zhao forced Dong Lei into a fine save. Dong, who suffered all game with a bleeding nose after being struck by Guto’s studs in the early exchanges, produced an even better save to turn a Luo Yi shot around the post midway through the second half. Not long after Luo’s effort, Guto put a close range header over the bar when he should have hit the target, and BG made Wuhan pay for their wastefulness.
The pace of second half substitute Bu Xin offered BG a dangerous outlet on the break, and it was the winter signing who set Valencia up when he burst down the left flank before squaring to the Colombian. Whether Valencia intended a heavy first touch that caused the ball to skip up off the ground is debatable, but there is no argument that his second touch was 100% on purpose as he hooked into the net with his back to goal.
Wuhan tried to fight their way back into it, but looked to have squandered their best chance when Song Zhiwei blazed over with two minutes of regular time remaining. However, Guto’s late tumble changed the outcome and left BG boss Aleksander Stanojevic fuming.
Shanghai Shenxin 1-3 Dalian Transcendence
The newly-promoted Transcendence claimed the shock of the round with a 3-1 away victory over the relegated Shenxin. These sides were two divisions apart last year, but that made little difference as Zhang Jian struck a brace either side of a Quan Heng goal. With the hosts 2-0 down, Daniel Chima pulled one back in the 79th minute, but Zhang struck less than two minutes later to give Transcendence the win in their first ever game in the second tier.
Zhang headed the opener in the 30th minute of his first game with Transcendence following a Liu Huan cross. Shenxin’s new Brazilian winger Biro-Biro showed some impressive flashes and drew a decent reflex save from Guo Wei via a deflected shot, but Quan Han doubled the lead in the 65th minute. The goal came when Erton Fejzullahu’s shot bounced straight back to him off the crossbar and he squared to Quan.
Chima gave the hosts hope, but then Jailton Paraiba, who was a key part of Yanbian Changbaishan’s remarkable promotion last season and previously spent four seasons with Shenxin, played in Zhang for Transcendence’s third. It’s an exciting win for the visitors who have only existed for three years, but it’s an ominous start to the season for Shenxin who were tussling with the big boys of the CSL just a season ago.
Shenzhen FC 2-1 Xinjiang
After enduring the League One opening ceremony on Saturday afternoon, over 20,000 fans, a noticeable chunk of which were from the city’s Xinjiang diaspora, witnessed Shenzhen make a winning start to the season. A 24th minute Li Fei penalty and a debut goal from Aboubakar Oumarou two minutes before half-time gave the hosts a two goal lead which proved unassailable despite Nan Xiaoheng pulling one back late in the second half.
It was clear from the get-go that Xinjiang were going to have a difficult afternoon as Oumarou gave visiting right-back Xu Qing a torrid time and went close with a 15th minute shot. Just three minutes later, Xinjiang keeper Gu Juanjie fumbled a soft Xu Liang free kick and Cai Jingyuan’s follow up shot clearly struck Xu Qing’s hand. The referee was unmoved, but Shenzhen had to wait only six minutes for Xu to handle again as the ball struck his arm under pressure from Oumarou.
This time, the official pointed to the spot and Li Fei stepped up to give the hosts the lead. Shenzhen remained on top and got their second when Oumarou ran onto a fine Cai Jingyuan pass, swatted away a challenge from Xu Qing and fired past Gu.
Xinjiang got one back when Nan Xiaoheng took advantage of some dithering Shenzhen defending to bundle the ball over the line after an Itparicia corner caused chaos in the penalty area. It wasn’t enough, though, and Shenzhen took all three points from Tang Yaodong’s first game in charge.
Hunan Billows 0-0 Beijing Renhe
Hunan sprung something of a surprise by holding weakened Renhe to a goalless draw in Yiyang. The visitors were without several key players, including playmaker Zvjezdan Misimovic, as they toiled in their first game since being relegated from the Super League.
High profile signing Nikica Jelavic, who moved from West Ham United last month, had his moments, but Renhe couldn’t find a breakthrough. The Croatian headed a Sejad Sahilovic corner just off target nine minutes in before playing Yang Yihu through on goal four minutes later. The winger somehow managed to sky his close range shot over the bar, though, and Renhe’s only other good chance came late in the game when Wang Gang couldn’t quite get enough on Jelavic’s deep cross to guide it into the net.
The hosts had their chances, too, with Liu Xingyu springing the offside trap just before the interval, only to unfathomably hook a lofted through ball wide with no defenders around him. Midway through the second half, Billows captain Cao Huan went closest of all when his drilled free kick struck the base of Renhe’s post. All in all, though, it will be the hosts who are much the happier with this result as Renhe make a disappointing start to life in the second tier.
Guizhou Zhicheng 1-1 Meizhou Hakka
It was honours even as two of the league’s relegation favourites met in Guiyang. After a scoreless first half, Meizhou’s Brazilian striker Japa found the net seven minutes into the second period following a goalmouth scramble initiated by Li Zhiliang’s corner. 12 minutes later, Guizhou’s Hong Kong international centre back Festus Baise had the ball in the net, only for his effort to be incorrectly ruled out for offside.
But after another dozen minutes, a key decision went the home side’s way as Chen Jianlong’s impressive lunging rugby tackle on Jiang Liang resulted in a penalty. Zhicheng’s own debuting Brazilian, Mazola, stepped up to score from 12-yards and the clubs settled for a draw. Both teams may be happy to get something on the board, but this result can also be viewed as two points dropped with much tougher games to come.
Qingdao Jonoon 1-0 Hohhot Zhongyou
A second half strike from Jonoon’s debuting Eddie Hernandez was enough to settle a tight affair. The Honduran took Song Long’s hooked pass onto his chest and flicked the ball away from centre back Mao Kaiyu before firing it past Han Fengtang in the Hohhot goal. The visitors couldn’t find a response as they lose 1-0 away from home in their season opener for the second year in a row.
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.