All but written off by some and with all but the die hard fans beginning to stay at home, Hangzhou Greentown looked primed to finally succumb to years of circling the CSL drain. However, a run of three consecutive wins has seen them head into round 17 four points clear of the danger zone. Can they make it four from four against struggling Shijiazhuang and will Greentown soften the blow of Cahill’s exit and end an otherwise quiet transfer window with a bang?
Hangzhou leave the north east buoyed by another win as gaps start to open up in the relegation battle
Anselmo Ramon proved the difference in Changchun as Hangzhou Greentown secured another unexpected victory.
In a largely dull game, Oh Beom-Seok foiled Changchun’s best chance by clearing a Marcelo Moreno effort of the line before the sides were separated by a combination of substitute Ramon’s 85th minute volley and some suspect goalkeeping from Wu Yake. With Ramon proving his worth in his first appearance back from a lengthy spell on the sidelines, the Brazilian’s long awaited return will be a welcome sight for everyone at the club.
The table as it stands, everyone from Liaoning in tenth down could find themselves at the wrong end of the table come crunch time, with a run of form for any side having the potential to propel them up the table. Magath’s Shandong Luneng finally woke up with a rousing home win over Jiangsu Suning and an influx of foreign talent up front in the form of Graziano Pelle and Papiss Cisse, the Jinan giants will surely find the form to escape the drop.
Having secured a miraculous yet deserved win over then in-form Hebei and subsequently victories over Yanbian Funde and Changchun Yatai, it is the form against fellow basement battlers that will be the decisive factor in the outcome of Greentown’s season. Points taken off the big boys will be a bonus but round 17’s game with Shijiazhuang represents another opportunity to put some distance between themselves and their rivals and therefore Greentown cannot afford to lose focus.
Will Greentown dip into the transfer market as Cahill departs with hours left in the window?
This week finally saw an end to the worst kept secret in Asian football as Tim Cahill’s departure from Hangzhou Greentown was finalised. Despite yet to be officially announced, Cahill’s destination is almost certainly Melbourne City, with the A-League introducing a new ‘Cahill rule’ in order to accommodate him. Following the announcement, Cahill took to Instagram to pay tribute to Greentown’s chairman and young squad but despite being offered “an amazing contract”, “this decision is based on me wanting to be with my family”.
Despite all being aware of the nature of Cahill’s short term contract, Greentown fans had started to hope the protracted silence was a sign that Cahill was contemplating seeing out the 2016 season in Zhejiang. Despite being largely anonymous (along with the entire Greentown side) during the miserable run of form that Greentown have only recently managed to escape from, the Australian has really come to the fore in recent games. Arguably Greentown’s highest profile signing ever, Cahill quickly became a popular figure at Huanglong, exuberating a level of passion and leadership that Greentown sorely needed. Most Hangzhou fans would agree that they would almost certainly be in a worse position right now without him and are therefore sad to see him depart.
With a foreign player slot now available and Friday’s deadline looming, Greentown must act quickly to fill a crucial spot in the side. Having missed out on Matheus, now of Shijiazhuang, Greentown reportedly turned their attention to Malaga’s Brazilian forward, Charles. While the signing of a striker should be the least of Greentown’s worries, a player who scored 12 goals in last season’s La Liga, would surely improve the squad. However, as Ramon’s goal scoring return indicated, there are more pressing concerns and hopefully the Greentown management don’t fall into the ‘when in doubt buy a striker’ trap.
Another player mooted to be on Greentown’s radar is Senegalese defensive midfielder Babacar Sarr who currently plies his trade with Norweigian side Sogndal. This is a position Greentown will benefit hugely from reinforcing and while Sarr appears to be all but unknown outside of Norway, Greentown are at least trying to rectify a weakness in defensive midfield.
More basement battles signal another crucial run of games for Greentown
On the back of four straight defeats, including a midweek humbling away to Shandong Luneng, Shijiazhuang Ever Bright arrive in Hangzhou Jinhua with a new man at the helm following the dismissal of the popular Yasen Petrov. Following Shijiazhuang’s widely unpopular decision, his replacement, Li Jinyu has precious little time to work with his squad and therefore this fixture represents a great chance for Hangzhou to capitalise on recent form. In this season’s previous meeting between the sides, Shijiazhuang edged a tight game with a goal from Mao Jianqing but Greentown will be confident of adding a little more daylight between themselves and the relegation zone. 2-0 Hangzhou Greentown
Having brought in Felix Magath to turn around a so far disastrous CSL season, Shandong Luneng have begun to show signs of recovery and have elevated themselves out of the drop zone with two recent wins. A fiery 2-1 win over Jiangsu Suning and a comfortable 4-0 dispatching of Shijiazhuang saw stars Walter Montillo and Diego Tardelli find some long overdue form. With Aloisio having left for pastures new in the shape of Hebei China Fortune to make way for the arrivals of Pelle and Cisse, the Jinan side on paper at least, have a seriously potent forward line. With their tails up and on home turf, Luneng will prove a tough test for Greentown whose run of form is likely to come to an end. 3-0 Shandong Luneng.