An underwhelming round of League One action is at an end with just thirteen goals scored across eight matches. Hardly a vintage week for the normally free scoring Chinese second tier, but the ever reliable WEF has managed to muster eight points of discussion out of a round seemingly more desolate than Hohhot Zhongyou’s pitch.
Baoding’s Fightback Shows Shenzhen’s Vulnerabilities
In a low scoring week, it was almost inevitable that a game involving Sven Goran Ericksson’s Shenzhen FC would bring up the average. Having scored nine in their first two matches, it was no surprise that Sven’s men banged in three this week but what may shock some is the fact that Baoding were able to fire back two in return and almost equalise if not for a missed stoppage time penalty.
The newly-promoted side were always going to be on the backfoot in their trip south, but they acquitted themselves very well and never looked overawed by the firepower of their opponents. Aboubakar Oumarou gave Shenzhen the lead with a beautifully weighted long range 20th minute effort, but John Owoeri had levelled just over ten minutes later with a determined solo effort.
League One – Round 3
Shenzhen FC 3
Oumarou 20′, Saetra(o.g.) 33′, Obasi 57′
Baoding Rongda 2
Owoeri 31′, Saetra 76′
A Lars Saetra own goal quickly restored Shenzhen’s lead and it looked like they might run away with things when Chinedu Obasi struck a 57th minute goal, but Saetra scored at the right end with a powerful header with less than 15 minutes left and the fightback was almost complete when Baoding were awarded a stoppage time penalty following a Zhang Jiaqi foul. Unfortunately for the visitors, Korean striker Ha Te-goon’s spot kick was kept out by goalkeeper Guan Zhen and Shenzhen held on for their third straight win.
There’s been little comfort for Shenzhen’s promotion rivals so far this season, but Baoding’s fightback shows that Guangdong club are not invulnerable. Their attack seems to be the best in the league, but their defence can be gotten at and teams with a bit of fight and bottle will be able to take it to them. Baoding certainly fit that bill and continue to prove themselves to be worthy additions to the second tier.
Relatively Dull Week Summed Up in Qingdao
The standard of football in League One might be lower than the CSL, but the excitement levels are generally just as high. This week was an exception, though, as the eight fixtures mustered just 13 goals between them – a number only bettered (worsed?) once last season.
League One – Round 3
Qingdao Huanghai 1
There were some fairly entertaining 0-0 draws in Hangzhou and Beijing, but the game that summed up a generally poor week took place in Qingdao where Huanghai toiled to an interminable 1-0 win over Xinjiang. Jordi Vinyals’s men are normally a good bet to put on an entertaining spectacle, but that wasn’t the case this week as they were reliant on a first half Marti Crespi penalty to win following a questionable hand ball from Mehmudjan Minem.
Apart from the second half sending off of Xinjiang centre back Vicente for a second yellow card, there was little else to talk about in what was the least memorable game in an unmemorable week.
Bright Beginning to Wuhan’s Tang Dynasty Increases Pressure on Petrov
Tang Yaodong’s reign as Wuhan Zall manager got off to a winning start with a 2-1 win over the struggling Beijing BG. On a beautiful Hubei day, Wuhan were largely dominant in front of over 20,000 supporters, but the game was a story of three set pieces.
Huang Xiyang gave the hosts the lead with a fine free kick around the half hour mark and Marcelo Moreno doubled the advantage when he converted a penalty eight minutes into the second half following a penalty box foul on Evrad Kouassi. Wang Jianwen pulled one back for BG with a 66th free kick which was struck from almost exactly the same spot as Huang’s effort and was an even better set piece. It didn’t mean much, though, as BG never looked like getting back into the match, meaning they’ve now lost three from three.
League One – Round 3
Wuhan Zall 2
Huang Xiyang 30′, Moreno 53′(pen)
Beijing BG 1
Wang Jianwen 66′
The result will encourage Zall’s fans and ownership that Tang is the right choice to take Wuhan forward, but it also throws the longevity of BG manager Yasen Petrov’s reign into doubt. The Bulgarian led Shijiazhuang Ever Bright to promotion three seasons ago and was seen as the man to take BG forward, but he has had a dreadful start to the season so far.
In his defence, Petrov can point to a difficult opening schedule (featuring matches against Qingdao Huanghai, Dalian Yifang and Wuhan), the loss of major off-season signing Cheik Tiote to injury last week and having to sub off players Song Yi and Bu Xin because of injury within the first 15 minutes of this week’s game. Unfortunately, he has also done himself no favours by making some strange team selections that haven’t paid off.
BG’s ownership was remarkably patient with previous manager Aleksander Stanojevic who was given two years despite making no significant inroads towards promotion. However, if Petrov doesn’t win soon he may be following Tang’s predecessor Ciro Ferrara to the unemployment line.
Johnny B Good for Lijiang
The biggest shock of round 3 came in Beijing where Yunnan Lijiang were able to hold Renhe to a 0-0 draw. With the hosts scoring five in the first two games and their visitors conceding the same amount, you’d be forgiven for presuming that Renhe would net a few goals.
But this was a different Lijiang side thanks to the debut of mountainous Brazilian centre back Johnny who missed the first two games of the season through injury. A 31-year-old who has been relegated in two consecutive seasons (from the CSL with Shanghai Shenxin in 2015 and League One with Qingdao Jonoon in 2016) may not seem like the ideal player for a team battling the drop, but his return to fitness made Lim Jong-heon’s men look like a different side.
League One – Round 3
Beijing Renhe 0
Yunnan Lijiang 0
Not only did Johnny himself play exceptionally well by making some key blocks and being a colossus in the air, he allowed his South Korean manager to switch to a 5-4-1 formation for the first time this year. Along with Brazilian attacker Kaio, Yunnan also have Korean centre-back Kim Hyun-hun in their side, making them the only League One team to boast two foreign defenders. It’s clear that Lim’s plan was to go defensive all along, but couldn’t do it without Johnny.
Now, the two foreigners can play alongside the impressively composed Sun Fei in the middle of a five-man backline and their defence looked all the better for it. Make no mistake, Renhe did dominate play and would have won had it not been for a combination of poor finishing and some fine saves from returning goalkeeper Cai Haochen. However, given Renhe’s excellent home record, preserving a 0-0 draw is a fine result and Lijiang may even have won it with a couple of second half chances on the counter-attack.
When they’re back in Lijiang against opponents exhausted by the altitude, this solid defensive platform could give them the foundation to nick a few wins and be in with a fighting chance of survival.
Hohhot Need to Stand Up for Themselves at Home
Last season, Hohhot Zhongyou were almost entirely reliant on their home record to keep them up. Wang Bo’s men took 32 of their 41 points at home in 2016 and so they would have expected to put last week’s 5-0 hammering by Shenxin in Shanghai behind them with a nice easy home opener against the struggling Dalian Transcendence who were without key attacker Jailton Paraiba.
The Mongolians were the stronger team across 90 minutes, but a fine goalkeeping performance from Cui Kai along with some shoddy finishing by forward Andre Senghor meant the hosts were unable to find a breakthrough. To make matters worse, Transcendence scored a bizarre goal just before half-time when Hu Zhaojun was kept onside by Zhongyou centre back Luo Hao who was lying on the field with a pretend injury.
League One – Round 3
Hohhot Zhongyou 0
Dalian Transcendence 1
Hu Zhaojun 44′
Hu had rushed past Luo while chasing down the goalkeeper and the latter decided to milk their brief physical contact by going to ground clutching his face in order to win a cheap free kick. Unfortunately for the under-23 player, Zhongyou goalkeeper Han Fengtang ballooned his clearance, allowing Ivan Bozic to nod the ball back to Hu. At first glance, the 36-year-old veteran appeared to be offside, but Luo’s prone body kept him in a legal position and allowed him to score the winner.
For any football fan tired of seeing players using minimal contact to try and con the referee, Luo’s error will be seen as just desserts. For Zhongyou, it has handed them a defeat which has left them bottom of the table. Last year, Zhongyou lost their first five games of the season and ended up finishing seventh. They were all away matches, though, and if the club can’t stand up for themselves at home, they could be in real danger of relegation.
No Contest Means No Controversy in “Dalian Derby”
Back in 2015, a match between Harbin Yiteng and Dalian Aerbin caused controversy when Yiteng conceded two late goals and were accused of deliberately throwing the match by their previously loyal Heilongjiang based supporters. The basis for the conspiracy theory was the fact that Yiteng was a Dalian based company who had referred to the game as a “Dalian Derby” in their own pre-match hype and so would do the promotion-chasing Aerbin (by then already owned by Yifang) a “favour” by allowing them to win the match. The truth of the allegations has never been proven, but it led to a dramatic falling out between the Harbin fans and the ownership which was largely responsible for them relocating to Zhejiang.
League One – Round 3
Dalian Yifang 1
Zhejiang Yiteng 0
It’s no surprise then that there is always an always an element of cynicism surrounding this fixture, but there was no need for that this weekend as Yifang ran out as far more comfortable winners than the scoreline suggests. Zhejiang were missing injured Dutch winger Romeo Castelen and centre forward Guto, who returned to Brazil over a personal matter, and their toothless attack mustered just two shots across 90 minutes.
With their defence now having gone three games without conceding, Yifang’s attack is still not 100% convincing, but they created plenty of chances and scored the decisive goal on 36 minutes when Yannick Boli’s header deflected in on off the broad chest off Zhejiang midfielder Adam Hughes. Nyasha Mushekwi missed a very good chance to double the score in the second half, but it didn’t really matter as an equaliser never looked likely.
The strolling nature of the win asserted Yifang’s status as one of the promotion favourites, but it also meant there was no room for controversy as Yiteng were comfortably outplayed from the start.
Shijiazhuang Squander Soft Start
Despite losing most of their best players over the off-season, Shijiazhuang Ever Bright were still expected to be in contention for an immediate return to the CSL and were handed an apparently easy start to the season with consecutive home matches against Yunnan Lijiang, Baoding Rongda and Mezihou Hakka. The former two sides are both newly-promoted and Meizhou were terrible on the road last season where they took just eight points and conceded 34 goals in 15 matches.
League One – Round 3
Shijiazhuang Ever Bright 1
Meizhou Hakka 1
But Shijiazhuang make the short journey north to take on Beijing BG next week having picked up just four points from those three matches and their late equaliser this week did little to soften the blow. Meizhou sat back for most of the game, but their combination of a quickfire counterattack and some disastrous defending from Shijiazhuang captain Xu Bo meant Japa had put them 1-0 up just before half-time and might have made it two early in the second half before dragging an excellent chance wide.
Shijiazhuang spent most of the second half camped in Meizhou’s half but – with attacker Adriano seemingly struggling to settle in. winger Matheus injured and visiting goalkeeper Hou Yu proving to be a fine shot stopper – it almost came to nothing and they go lucky in the 90th minute when the otherwise excellent Meizhou centre back Gibril Sankoh deflected Jacob Mulenga’s strike into the net.
Hangzhou’s Seniors Miss Chance to Impress
Hangzhou Greentown’s brave/crazy experiment to include several under-20 players in every starting line-up went on a brief hiatus this week as those youngsters were away qualifying for the 2017 National Games tournament. That meant that more senior players such as Chen Po-liang, Luo Jing, Cheng Jin and Ge Zhen got a chance to take the field again having been previously limited to substitute appearances.
Unfortunately for the Huanglong faithful, this didn’t lead to an upturn in results. Keeping Shanghai Shenxin scoreless is no mean feat but, aside from injured Australian defender Matthew Spiranovic, this was pretty much Hangzhou’s strongest side and they’ll be disappointed to come away with a 0-0 draw.
Hangzhou Greentown 0
Shanghai Shenxin 0
Had winger Denilson Gabionetta shown more composure in front of goal, Hangzhou might have taken all three points, but Sun Zhengao was sent off with 15 minutes remaining for leaving a foot in on Biro-Biro and any hope of a win walked off the field with him. As it stands, Hangzhou have taken five point from three home games and club owner Song Weiping will have been given little incentive to keep the U20 players out of the team when they become available again.