Xihu Insider: Relegation battle heading to the wire after Changchun Yatai capitalise on Greentown defeat in Guangzhou
After a crushing away defeat to a brilliantly clinical Guangzhou R&F, Hangzhou Greentown are yet again desperate for points as relegation rivals breath down their necks and Shanghai Shenhua come to town looking to end their Huanglong derby day hoodoo.
Zahavi puts Greentown to the sword in Guangdong
Start off with a generous helping of pre-game confidence, throw in a handful of poor first half defending, a smattering of clinical opposition counter attacks and a pinch of ruthless finishing and what do you get? A bitter 5-2 defeat. Greentown, whose travelling fans would have been hopeful for far more than they were served, were thoroughly undone as Eran Zahavi ran the show, allowing Guangzhou R&F to emerge clear winners in this CSL round 27 clash.
Despite being given several early warnings that Guangzhou were in the mood for goals, Greentown continued to offer up first half chances a plenty and Jiang Zhipeng and Zahavi were happy to oblige either side of Ramon’s reply for the away side.
2-1 down at half time, Greentown were still very much in the game but after allowing him the freedom of Yuexiushan, Apostolis Giannou picked out the top corner from range early in the second half, to leave Greentown with a monumental task to take anything from the game. Two blistering counter attacks later and Greentown were down and out at 5-1 before Greentown managed a second consolation goal, Ramon and Gabionetta combining for the latter to slot home a goal as impressive as it was meaningless.
While this was a fixture few would have fancied them to emerge victorious from, what was most disappointing was that Greentown could not carry their previous form over to this game. The international break could not have come at a worse time for Hangzhou and the extended gap between fixtures appears to have completely halted the momentum gained after the highs of the win over Jiangsu Suning. More worryingly, Greentown were easily dispatched at a time in the season where confidence and morale are as vital as ever.
Relegation watch: Changchun victory cuts the gap once again as Shijiazhuang look likely to bite the CSL dust.
The atmosphere in the Greentown dressing room would not have been brightened by checking in on events in Jilin, where Changchun Yatai secured a well-earned win over Beijing Guoan. Having moved three points behind Greentown with three to play, the table makes anxious viewing for the Zhejiang side. However with Changchun playing away
to Liaoning Whowin this week, a side who are not completely out of the woods themselves, Greentown have reason to believe Changchun survival hopes could be dealt a severe blow in a relegation battle likely to once again be decided by miniscule margins.
After last week’s battling victory over Changchun, Shijiazhuang Ever Bright had the unenvious task of hosting a Guangzhou Evergrande who may as well be handed the trophy now. What followed was a 0-6 thrashing to make Shijiazhuang’s survival task look incredibly tough. A five point deficit with three games to play, two of which are away games suggests the writing is on the wall that Shijiazhuang’s stay in the CSL is coming to an end.
With the second and final relegation spot in CSL 2016 highly likely to be filled by one of Changchun and Hangzhou, the unpredictability of these two sides means it’s almost impossible to call who will be playing in League One next year. With two home games to Changchun’s one to come and a three point cushion, Greentown are in the driving seat. However this weekend’s reaction to defeat in Guangzhou will be crucial if Greentown are to escape once again and doom Changchun to the drop.
Huge performance needed against local rivals Shanghai Shenhua
Looking to lock down the third and final ACL spot, a recent home draw Henan Jianye sees Shenhua come to Huanglong sitting in third with a three point lead over city rivals SIPG. The CSL fortunes of rivals Shenhua and Greentown have once again proved rather contrasting, exhibited by the 4-1 drubbing handed to Greentown at Hongkou earlier in the season. At first glance, this game would appear a banker for the visiting Shenhua.
However, appearances can be deceiving and Hangzhou Greentown welcome Shanghai Shenhua with history on their side. Huanglong has proved a tough place to come for Shenhua in recent years and Greentown have consistently managed to produce a performance belying of their league position when Shenhua are in town, including a 4-1 victory in 2015. Having seen off Jiangsu in their most recent home game, Hangzhou are most certainly a team who enjoy home comforts after achieving only two wins on the road in what is proving yet another nail biter of a season for Greentown players and fans alike.
Even with recent home results on Greentown’s side, an albeit inconsistent Shenhua still come to Hangzhou looking simply too strong. On the back of a heavy defeat it would take a huge performance for Greentown to secure any of those precious points. While a draw would be a good result for Greentown, Shenhua will be good enough on the day to end their wretched run of form at Huanglong and secure a 2-1 victory.