With the best part of three months having passed since Huanglong last saw a ball kicked in anger and with the G20 juggernaut having finally left town, Greentown returned to Hangzhou with a lacklustre defeat against SIPG. After once again finding themselves in the midst of their yearly flirtation with the relegation trap door, Greentown will need to seriously up their game to avoid the drop, starting with the visit of Jiangsu Suning in round 26.
Greentown defeated on return from exile
After being dumped out of the ACL by Korean side Jeonbuk Motors, SIPG arrived in Hangzhou looking to keep up the heat on rivals Shanghai Shenhua in the two way ACL spot shootout.
In a first half where there was little separating two sides who currently occupy two very different ends of the CSL table, SIPG without midfield maestro Dario Conca, proved poor. Greentown squandered their usual share of decent chances, wingers Chen Po-Liang and Gabionetta the guilty parties, the latter remaining exciting and infuriating in equal measure.
After half time, SIPG found a breakthrough via a moment of class in the 56th minute when Elkeson’s replacement, Kouassi bundled in after Hulk’s chip had rebounded off the post. In an increasingly dull second half, Greentown offered little hope to the home fans before He Guan rose highest to power in a header from a corner to seal all three points for SIPG.
Despite a late Ramon penalty after Gabionetta was felled in box, it was too little too late and Greentown once again find themselves teetering on the precipice, with only three points separating them and 15th placed Changchun.
End of season run in offers up a tough run of fixtures in relegation battle
After putting to bed fears that their time in Jinhua would have an adverse effect on the relegation battle by remaining undefeated with a draw and two wins, a credible goalless draw away to the champions in Guangzhou was undone by two uninspiring displays against Liaoning and SIPG.
With five games to ensure CSL 2017 football in Zhejiang, looking at the fixture list does not bode well for Greentown fans. Starting with Sunday’s hosting of Jiangsu Suning, Greentown’s remaining home fixtures include the dangerous Shenhua and the entertaining yet unpredictable Yanbian either side of away days to Guangzhou R&F and Hebei CFFC. In a run of games where it is difficult to see where they will get points from, Greentown will be sweating.
Round 26 sees the bottom two, Shijiazhuang and Changchun face off in a game where a draw will do nicely for Greentown. A loss would condemn Shijiazhuang, who currently sit five points from safety to a likely relegation. However, in an as always incredibly close foot of the table, Greentown need some results to go their way and to pick up some surprise points of their own before what will still likely be settled on yet another last day relegation shootout.
Visit of Jiangsu Suning offers precious little optimism for Greentown
You wait forever for a bus and two come along at once as a consecutive home fixture sees Greentown welcome local (kind of) rivals Jiangsu Suning to Hangzhou in round 26.
Second only to Guangzhou Evergrande in the current standings, Jiangsu arrive in Zhejiang rich in form, having won their last six games in all competitions including securing a CFA Cup final berth. Despite last week’s win, Suning were pushed hard by Tianjin Teda. Former Greentown man Xie Pengfei scoring a quality goal before providing an assist for Alex Teixeira to ultimately see off the wasteful Tianjin.
Greentown are boosted by the availability of loanee Sammir who is set to play against his parent club, with the clause being negotiated at the time of his summer switch. Other than a potential return for Oh Beom-Seok in defence, Greentown will likely set up as they did against SIPG but will need the midfield to offer more going forward and actually provide Ramon with some service, if they are going to breach the Jiangsu defence.
A Tim Cahill header saw Greentown snatch a late point in this season’s previous meeting between the sides however it’s hard to see Greentown getting anything from this one. Xihu Insider predicts a 0-3 win for Suning and for Greentown to be left looking intently over their shoulder at events in Shijiazhuang.