With Guangzhou Evergrande having secured a sixth consecutive CSL crown attention turns to the race for third and crucially for Greentown, the relegation battle. After being confirmed as 2016’s first casualty, who will be joining Shijiazhuang Ever Bright in League One football next season?
Late Changchun surge means it’s do or die for Greentown heading into round 30
At any other time of the season, having secured 0-0 draws against Shanghai Shenhua and Hebei CFFC would be considered two points well gained. While that logic still applies, a Changchun Yatai side who this time last week looked prime candidates for relegation have leapfrogged Greentown into 14th place following two unexpected away victories to leave Greentown very much circling the CSL drain.
Following a disallowed goal, Oscar worthy theatrics and the impressive travelling Shenhua support concluding yet another round of ‘The Entertainer’, the referee did everyone a favour by signalling the end of on an at times feisty but on the whole, drab derby. With the exception of a few Greentown fans who thought it would be fun to attempt to hurdle riot gear clad policeman in search of Shenhua blood, attention turned to events in Liaoning from where news of a late Changchun victory made uneasy viewing for those in Green. Marcelo Moreno’s injury time penalty to secure a 0-1 win for Yatai left Greentown one point ahead with two to play.
It was déjà vu on Wednesday night for Greentown away in Qinhuangdao where news of another Changchun victory met the Greentown faithful. While Tan Yang was wasting a glorious one on one chance to secure more than what was ultimately a fortunate Greentown draw with Hebei CFFC, Anzur Ismailov and Yang Boyu were securing Changchun a 1-2 away win to Henan Jianye, dragging themselves a point clear of the drop zone in the process. Having looked down and out following consecutive defeats to Tianjin Teda and Shijiazhuang respectively, Changchun deserve a lot of credit for what they’ve done in the last week and they’ve set up a nail biter of a final day.
With Greentown hosting Yanbian Funde on Sunday knowing they must better Changchun’s result at home to Shenhua to be sure of staying in the CSL, the pressure is very much on for Hong Myung-Bo.
Relegation watch: Greentown relying on a favour from Shenhua to have any hope of staying up
A typically tight end of season CSL table means that any of Tianjin, Liaoning, Changchun and Hangzhou could potentially be occupying that final relegation spot come 10pm on Sunday.
While the potential permutations that could come into play given certain results are enough to leave you smashing your head against a wall, for Hangzhou Greentown, Sunday boils down to do or die. By bettering Changchun’s result at home to Shenhua, they will be playing CSL football next season after having the better of both goal difference and head to head in the event of either coming into account. After slipping up in the race for third, Shanghai Shenhua’s ACL hopes are dependent on beating Changchun alongside SIPG failing to win, meaning any potential suspicions of Shenhua conspiring to send Greentown down are null and void.
Despite a draw potentially being enough, all Greentown can do is go out and win and hope for results elsewhere to go their way. Recent history is on their side, having beaten Shanghai Shenxin 4-2 to secure safety on the final day in 2015, meaning all hope is not lost for Greentown who seemingly enjoy a good last day gut wrenching.
Elsewhere, you would fancy Jiangsu Suning away to Liaoning, which depending on other results, could spell serious trouble for the home side, while the game between Chongqing Lifan and Tianjin is almost impossible to call.
Essentially, bar an unlikely set of results in which all three of their rivals win, a win will keep Greentown up. However you look at it, Sunday is going to be a rollercoaster for all involved.
Yanbian Funde come to Huanglong with the chance to play god
After being the side to finally snuff out and lingering Shijiazhuang survival hopes, Yanbian Funde are one of the better sides Greentown could face on the final day. Despite securing their first win for four games in midweek, Funde are safe themselves and although they might having fallen away following a strong start to the season, Yanbian have nothing to play for in what has been an impressive debut CSL campaign. While they will be out to do nobody any favours, this surely has to help Greentown’s cause.
Having set up relatively defensively in recent games, Greentown will be looking to take the attack to the visitors with whom they shared a six goal thriller with earlier in the season. In spite of having the best defensive record out of the top six, Greentown’s woes in 2016 have stemmed from a lack of firepower, having only managed to find the net 26 times all season. However, as results such as the 4-2 victory over Yanbian and the more recent 3-0 home win against Jiangsu show, when they click, Greentown are capable of finding the net.
All said and done, all Greentown can do is give themselves the best chance of survival by securing three points on Sunday. I expect Greentown to hold up their end of the bargain with a 2-1 win and for Shanghai Shenhua to do us a favour in Changchun to see Hangzhou sneak CSL survival for yet another year.
See you on the other side.