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League One Team of the Week – Round 4: Zhejiang, Renhe and Transcendence Each Provide a Duo

Round 4 is done and dusted in China’s second tier, and it’s time once again for our team of the week. In general, it was a week of outstanding goals rather than outstanding performances, but there is still enough for us to put together a decent XI in a 4-2-3-1 formation. All players play in, or very close to, their correct position and the team follows League One rules meaning only three foreigners and an under-23 player in the XI.

Goalkeeper – Bai Xiaolei – Shijiazhuang Ever Bright

Shijiazhuang signed Bai from Zhejiang Yiteng over the winter in order to replace the departing Guang Zhen, and it was a major surprise that manager Afshin Ghotbi left the 31-year-old on the bench for the first three games of the year in favour of last season’s back-up Shao Puliang. That decision backfired with Shao making major errors in rounds 1 and 2, and Bai further emphasised Ghotbi’s folly by putting on a fine display on his debut. The former Beijing Guo’an back-up didn’t have a great deal to do against Beijing BG this week, but made one absolutely fantastic close range save from Chen Haowei when he leaped up from a prone position to block with his forearm. That, coupled with a mistake free performance, means that Bai will be the number one moving forward and can continue to stake his claim as one of he best goalkeepers in the division.

Right-back – Huo Liang – Meizhou Hakka

Huo actually started Meizhou’s game with Shenzhen FC at right-back, but switched over to the left in the second half in order to help his side cope with their opponents’ deadly left-winger Aboubakar Oumarou. Huo succeeded in keeping the Cameroonian quiet, and the positional shift shows the regard which manager Vjekoslav Lokica holds him in. The 27-year-old only signed for Meizhou this winter from League Two side Baotou Nanjiao and has never played at this level before. On this evidence, it looks as though he’s been already been overlooked for too long.

Centre Back – Wang Hongyou – Dalian Transcendence

In our Talking Points article earlier this week we already pointed out how some de-gentrifying tweaks have helped sure up what was a shambolic Transcendence defence, but the performances of the defenders themselves shouldn’t be overlooked. Foremost among them is Wang Hongyou, who was as guilty as anybody for Transendence shipping six in their first game. But like his team, Wang has turned it around and comfortably handled Hangzhou Greentown’s admittedly struggling forward Anselmo Ramon this week.

Centre Back – Wan Houliang – Beijing Renhe

Renhe’s defence has been greatly improved over their last two games and they became the first team to shut out Baoding Rongda this season. If it wasn’t for the foreign player quota, we’d have put Meizhou Hakka’s Gibril Sankoh in this spot, but Wan made some important tackles and blocks in this match and so comes in as a worthy back-up..

Left-back – Zu Pengchao(U23) – Shenzhen FC

The temptation would be to include Dalian Yifang’s Li Shuai as our under-23 player this week given that he became the first Chinese youngster to score a goal this season. But Li’s game generally went downhill after his 4th minute strike against Qingdao Huanghai, whereas Zu Pengchao put in a great performance across 90 minutes vs Meizhou Hakka. The 20-year-old signed from Shanghai Shenhua in the winter to play in Shenzhen’s designated U-23 left-back position and he showed great potential this week. He defended well – including making a key penalty area block – but also showed a willingness to attack and played in a great cross for Harold Preciado to head against the crossbar in the first half.

Defensive Midfield – Adam Hughes – Zhejiang Yiteng

The veteran Aussie almost moved to Wuhan a couple of years back, but he came back to haunt them this week with a punishing display in the midfield. There’s nothing pretty about the 34-year-old’s game, but he made it impossible for Wuhan’s midfield to get anything going this week. Hughes was almost released by the club this off-season after five years of service, but they opted to bring him back and this game suggests that to have been a very wise decision.

Defensive Midfield – Meng Yang – Yunnan Yijiang

Yunnan Lijiang’s 2-2 draw with Hohhot Zhongyou featured two penalties, a broken leg and plenty of drama, but it also included a pair of outstanding goals. The thunderbolt struck by Zhongyou’s Yin Lu was probably a better goal than Meng Yang’s deft curler, but the Lijiang man had a superior game overall as he pushed his side to a memorable comeback.

Right-wing – Zhang Jian – Dalian Transendence 

There were no real outstanding attacking performances from any right-wingers this week (insert your Donald Trump joke here), so Zhang Jian’s toil and work ethic is enough to give him a second inclusion in our team of the week. The stocky winger just never stops running and is always there to support his vulnerable defence. He was unable to produce a great deal in the final third this week, but his performance perfectly encapsulates why Transcendence have been able to turn things around over the last couple of games.

Attacking Midfield – Ivo – Beijing Renhe

Watchers of League One were excited when Ivo signed for Renhe from Henan Jianye at the end of last season as he looked like a player sure to light up the division. Bearing that in mind, his first three games had been a mild disappointment as things didn’t quite seem to be coming together for the 30-year-old. That all changed this week, as he proved to be the difference between his side and Baoding Rongda in a tightly fought contest. The Brazilian had been the best player all match, and he sealed a fine performance when he wormed his way into some midfield space, before striking a late 20-yard winner.

Left-wing – Gu Bin – Shanghai Shenxin

The former Shanghai Shenhua player only took the field for 20 minutes this week, but it was enough time for him to make his mark and earn a spot in our team. Gu was left on the bench as a precaution having just recovered from injury, but he was introduced with his side leading 1-0 and needing another goal to seal things. It took the 24-year-old four minutes to oblige when he sweetly struck a 20-yard effort past Xinjiang Tianshan Leopard’s helpless goalkeeper. Gu once again showed that he has a left foot like a traction engine, and it proved to be vital in preserving the win as Xinjiang nicked a late consolation.

Forward – Guto – Zhejiang Yiteng

It would be hard to say that Guto played well over the course of 90 minutes against his former club, but he was able to come away from the week as the only player with two goals thanks to a moment of comedic fortune and a moment of magic. The former came when he missed a penalty in first half stoppage time, only to trip into the ball as he attacked the rebound and ungracefully bundled it over the line. The latter, though, was a thing of beauty as he struck a sublime free kick to give his side the win early in the second half. You’d be hard pressed to remember anything else the Brazilian did this week, but strikers are ultimately judged on goals and his brace is enough for him to lead our line in round 4. .

Based in China for five years, Jamie has been exploring tiny little third tier Hubei cities without football teams or decent internet connections, but is now a regular at China League One side Wuhan Zall. A keen football afficionado, he regularly takes in the Chinese Super League, enjoying matches in Shanghai, Hangzhou, Guangzhou and Nanjing. Jamie is also a keen observer of the fortunes of the Chinese National side.

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