Hangzhou look a team reborn as victory over Yanbian sees them secure a second shock league win in as many games. With the relegation battle heating up, their fellow CSL teams splashing the cash and a temporary change of home on the horizon, can Greentown keep it going as they stay in the north east to face fellow strugglers Changchun in round 16?
Decision to field weakened cup side vindicated as nineteen minute goal frenzy inspires Greentown to victory in Yanji
With 2016 looking like the year Greentown may finally fall through the CSL trap door, priorities lay elsewhere as low expectations and a second string side welcomed Beijing Guoan to Huanglong in the CFA Cup. Guoan, for whom this competition represents the sole remaining chance of silverware this year, barely broke sweat as they dispatched Greentown with a comfortable 1-3 win. Hong Myung-Bo’s sole focus now: survival.
From the moment Cao Haiqing crossed for Tim Cahill to ghost into the box and fire a low header past Chi Wenyi, few would have predicted what was to follow as Greentown ran amok in the Yanji sunshine. For a side devoid of both quality and luck for so much of this season, Greentown conjured a performance belying their current standing, albeit up against an out of sorts Yanbian, whose CSL honeymoon would appear to be coming to an end.
Denilson Gabionetta, who prior to this week, I could have sworn had an ‘m’ in his name, has finally started to produce performances you would expect from a professional footballer. It was the Brazilian’s swift and skillful break down the right that teed up Huang Xiyang to score Greentown’s second. Given acres of space, defensive midfielder Huang stunned the home crowd by expertly finding the top right hand corner with a 30 yard drive. It was soon 0-3 when Gabionetta added a penalty before Yanbian replied through Bit-Garam Yoon but Greentown went into half time in dreamland when Tan Yang added a fourth.
Yanbian dominated the second half and showed why they have won many admirers so far in their debut CSL season. However, despite a large share of possession they could not find another breakthrough until the 88th minute, when former Greentown forward Steve tucked home.
By then, the job was done for the men in Green who secured their first away win of the season at the eighth attempt. Greentown are most certainly up for the fight.
G20 sees Greentown set up home in Jinhua
With Xi, Barack and the boys coming to Hangzhou in September for the G20, it was announced this week that Greentown’s next three home games against Shijiazhuang Ever Bright, Tianjin Teda and Henan Jianye respectively, will be held in Jinhua.
Huanglong is hardly the intimidating cauldron of atmosphere that leaves away sides trembling in their boots, yet this move surely cannot help in Greentown’s battle to avoid the drop. For reasons including, increased travel time for the team and fans alike, no side would be keen to set up temporary home in another city but Greentown must make the best of a bad situation.
On the plus side, the standard of the Huanglong pitch of late has been woeful and Greentown could probably benefit from playing on a (hopefully) decent surface. Despite hope of a fair number of fans making the trip south crowds are likely to be even smaller than usual for a side who have struggled to attract crowds upwards of 5,000 this season. If Greentown are smart, this could be a chance to win some new fans by capturing some of the unrepresented, central and southern Zhejiang football market.
Greentown cannot afford to lose focus and all things considered, this move can only really be a hindrance to Greentown’s survival hopes.
Two poor sides face off as Changchun host Hangzhou in round 16
Following the win over Yanbian Funde, Greentown stayed in the north-east to prepare to face fellow relegation candidates, Changchun Yatai.
Despite adopting a seemingly defensive 5-3-2 formation this season, Yatai’s defence has remained porous, seeing them share the title of worst defensive record with Liaoning. Therefore having finally found some goal scoring form, Greentown should be confident of getting on the score sheet. Against Yanbian, Greentown’s fullbacks, Cao Haiqing and Oh Beom-Seok did a fantastic job of overlapping with the narrow midfield, most notably Cao who produced the cross for Cahill’s opening goal. It is important Greentown capitalise on this momentum.
Unlike Greentown, Changchun have a relatively steady source of goals in the shape of Marcelo Moreno. The Bolivian has already found the net seven times this season and is well on course to shatter his total of nine from 2016. Having added young, promising Croatian midfielder, Mislav Orsic to their ranks, Changchun are dangerous in attack, While Greentown should be wary, they have the joint best defensive record in the bottom half of the league and the defence has carried the side in the absence of a reliable goal scorer.
If Greentown can reach a level of performance similar to that against Yanbian, they will be tough to beat however, Changchun, in a relegation battle of their own, are unlikely to be a generous. As ever between two poor sides, really could go either way. With a lot to play for, a 1-1 draw will do few favours for either side who desperately need to distance themselves from the relegation zone.