Can Hangzhou Greentown build on an unexpected victory to progress in the cup and finally escape the suffocating clutches of the relegation zone?
Tan Yang on hand to resuscitate Greentown’s season
As the final whistle sounded around a rain soaked Huanglong, the emotion etched on the faces of the Greentown players was clear for all to see. After securing a first win in 12 attempts, the celebrations that ensued were indicative of team being brought back to life following a horrendous run of form which has seen them slump to the foot of the CSL table.
Heading into the game against Hebei CFFC as clear underdogs, few Greentown fans believed this was to be the game where their rotten streak would be halted. However, without stars, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Gervinho, Hebei were a shadow of the side that has excelled in their first CSL season.
Denilson Gambionetta, a player often the source of much frustration for Greentown fans had his best game in a Hangzhou shirt to date. Despite his end product being as usual, wildly unpredictable, it was he who in the 26th minute turned provider for Tan Yang to tap home the winner and only Greentown’s eighth goal of the season.
Of course, one win in itself is nothing to get carried away about in what is going to be a tough battle against the drop. However, after being on the ropes for so long, the potential magnitude of this victory cannot be underestimated.
Angan departs to make way for Ramon. Cahill heading home?
After three and a half years, over 90 appearances and 23 goals, Davy Claude Angan’s time with Hangzhou Greentown has come to an end. With the Ivorian striker unexpectedly departing to vacate a foreign player spot for the returning Anselmo Ramon, Greentown fans were quick to question the departure of a player who despite recent poor form, remained a popular figure.
While all recognised the necessity of reintroduction of Ramon into the squad, many, including myself had called for Gambionetta to be the man to make way. However, Hong Myung-Bo made the difficult call to release Angan following only one goal to his name in 2016. With Gambionetta producing a crucial assist against Hebei he may feel already vindicated.
Another player likely soon to depart Greentown is Tim Cahill, with a move to Melbourne City appearing imminent.
Having joined the club on a short term deal, Greentown fans were hopeful his signing would prove a catalyst for a positive 2016. However with only three goals under his belt, Cahill has not had the impact on the pitch most had hoped for. What he has brought however, is a wealth of experience along with an exemplary attitude and leadership ethic which Hangzhou’s young squad must surely have benefitted. This was none more so apparent than in the victory over Hebei where Cahill could be seen geeing up the crowd before being clearly delighted following the final whistle. He did not look like a player on his way out.
Still with the ability to play a significant role in Greentown’s relegation battle, an A-League return for the veteran would leave Greentown a weaker side and therefore the higher ups should be doing everything they can to keep him.
The CFA Cup returns
Round four of Chinese FA Cup sees Beijing Guoan visit Huanglong looking for a repeat of their early season CSL victory which saw Burak Yilmaz run riot in an emphatic second half display.
Already out of the title race and nine points behind the ACL places, Beijing Guoan must view the cup as a method of salvaging silverware from 2016. With players such as Renato Augusto, Yu Dabao and Zhang Xizhe at their disposal, they potentially have the squad to do it.
In a competition that Greentown surely will see as an opportunity to rotate and experiment it is difficult to imagine Hangzhou progressing from this one. Anselmo Ramon, an unused substitute against Hebei, is likely to make an appearance and other fringe players such as the promising Zhuang Jiajie could be in line for starts.
Their 0-3 win at Huanglong earlier in the season in mind and fresh off the back of a 2-1 home win over Shanghai Shenhua, Guoan will be confident. Greentown, coming into this one after a victory of their own will put up a good fight but a 0-2 Guoan victory looks the most likely result here.
Greentown head to Yanji in round 15
Following a fairy tale 2015 and a good start to their debut CSL season, new boys Yanbian Funde are Greentown’s opponents in round 15. Currently sitting tenth in a season which has seen them secure some impressive results, most notably against Guoan and Guangzhou Evergrande, Yanbian fear no one.
With Korean Seung-Dae Kim leading the line and with numerous others chipping in with crucial goals, Yanbian have scored twice as many goals as Greentown in 2016. With former Greentown forward and 2015 loanee Babacarr Trawally (aka Steve) having already found the net four times this season, Yanbian are dangerous. Having largely kept faith with the squad that won promotion as well as bolstering their ranks with the returns of Chi Zhongguo and Cui Ren, a weak squad on paper is performing above all expectations.
A newly promoted side would expect to secure most of their points at home and this rings true for Yanbian who have secured 11 of their current 16 point tally at home. Greentown have only achieved one point away from home all season and therefore the form book would suggest they will struggle here.
Despite Yanbian’s season so far they only sit four points ahead of their visitors. If Greentown can take inspiration from and produce a performance reminiscent of that against Hebei, they will have a chance. I predict a 1-1 draw, a point with which Greentown would be especially content with.