Round 3 was a bit of League One dud, but there was plenty of action and an awful lot to talk about in this round of matches. A Classico in Dalian, a Guangdong derby, a Petrov derby, a nasty injury, some great goals and a team playing a literal 12th man marked a great round of League One competition which saw Shenzhen FC and Dalian Yifang preserve their 100% records at the top of the table. – Links to all match highlights found here
El Classico-(very)lite Doesn’t Disappoint
The biggest and most entertaining clash of the weekend took place in Dalian where Juan Ramon Lopez Caro’s Yifang hosted Jordi Vinyals’s Qingdao Huanghai. As well as being a match-up between two obvious promotion contenders, this was also a game between two Spanish managers with respective ties to Iberian behemoths Real Madrid and Barcelona. Caro had spent four years in charge of Real Madrid B in the early 2000s and followed that up with an unsuccessful half season spell in charge of the senior team. Vinyals, meanwhile, had coached the Barcelona youth team for two and a half years, before having a short spell in charge of Barcelona B.
It was hardly Vicente del Bosque vs Pep Guardiola, but the clash offered a touch of prestige for League One and even encouraged major Spanish newspaper Marca to write an article on the match-up
League One – Round 4
Dalian Yifang 2
Li Shuai 4′, Mushekwi 48′
Qingdao Huangai 1
Importantly, the game didn’t disappoint and was an entertaining, open affair that any impartial football fan would have enjoyed. Yifang dominated the early phases as they pushed high up the pitch and disrupted Huanghai’s patient passing game and they were ahead within four minutes thanks to youngster Li Shuai’s emphatic finish after the visitors had lost possession in their own half. Indeed, Yifang could have been at least two ahead within the first 15 minutes, but Huanghai weathered the storm and took advantage of the absence of Yifang’s injured centre back Jonathan Ferrari to equalise in the 17th minute through Joan Verdu after the weakened defence of the hosts failed to deal with a simple cross.
Within minutes, Huanghai centre forward Dorde Rakic was being stretchered off having been knocked unconscious and Vinyals would come to miss him later in the game. Yifang remained the better side and made it 2-1 just three minutes after the interval when Yannick Boli chested a Zhou Ting cross into the path of Nyasha Mushekwi, allowing the Zimbabwean international to score his fourth goal of the season.
From then on, Huanghai threw everything at Yifang who had a combination of goalkeeper Zhang Chong and the absence of Rakic for preserving their lead. The Serbian’s replacement was midfielder Liu Long who looked inept as a forward and his cluelessness in the penalty area ultimately cost Vinyals who gave the game a Mourinho-era El Classico tint when he was sent to the stands in the second half as his frustrations boiled over.
A great game that perfectly demonstrates the strength of Yifang, while also showing all of the merits of Huanghai’s compelling style of play.
Stalemate fitting in Petrov Derby
Beijing BG vs Shijiazhuang Ever Bright is a local derby, but their match this week was more about one man than local bragging rights. The match marked the first time that BG manager Yasen Petrov led a team against his former side Shijiazhuang. The 48-year-old took charge of the Hebei side in 2014 and immediately guided them to their first ever promotion to the CSL before consolidating their spot in the CSL the following year against the odds. Things unravelled in 2016 and Petrov was let go in the summer, but he is still fondly regarded in Shijiazhuang and the 2,000 or so travelling fans who made up around 40% of the total attendance were very happy to see him.
League One – Round 4
Beijing BG 0
Shijiazhuang Ever Bright 0
Unfortunately, the game itself lived down to the tepid expectations set by both sides’ slow start to the season. BG opened the season with three straight defeats and Shijiazhuang picked up just four points from three home games against theoretically inferior opposition. Matters were made worse by each team’s growing injury list. This meant BG were missing foreign strikers Leke James and Rubin Okotie, as well as talismanic captain Yan Xiangchuang; while Shijiazhuang were without Brazilian winger Matheus and midfielder Li Chunyu.
The result was a fairly dull 0-0 draw between a pair of teams with obvious problems. On balance, a point a piece was fair, but it does neither manager any favours. Petrov’s side still sit in the relegation zone without a win, while Shijiazhuang boss Afshi Ghotbi now has just five point to show for one of the easiest starts of the season.
At the end of the game, Petrov went over to sheepishly acknowledge the Shijiazhuang supporters who were chanting his name, but it can’t have been a happy time for manager or fans. The former because he knows that his job is at risk, and the latter because their hopes of an immediate return to the Super League looks increasingly unrealistic.
Zhang Shuoke Leg Break Overshadows Thiller in Lijiang
Just last Thursday we included Yunnan Lijiang’s Zhang Shuoke in our League One Team of the Week, but the striker ended the week in which he celebrated his 28th birthday in the hospital after suffering a nasty leg break in the first half of Lijiang’s game against Hohhot Zhongyou. Zhang’s horror injury occurred in the 33rd minute when he chased down a Kaio free kick which had been fumbled by Hohhot goalkeeper Zhu Zilin. Zhu got to the loose ball first, but the full weight of his body struck Zhang’s outstretched leg and the limb was already contorted at a disgusting angle before the striker hit the ground.
League One – Round 4
Yunnan Lijiang 2
Meng Yang 54′, Kaio 90′(pen)
Hohhot Zhongyou 2
Dori 26′(pen), Yin Lu 38′
It’s likely a season ending injury for a player who had been relishing his time in League One by scoring two goals in the opening three games, having spent the previous four seasons toiling with Lijiang in the third tier. It also overshadowed a very entertaining game which featured two controversial penalties, two absolutely cracking goals and a second half comeback from the hosts.
By the time Zhang was stretchered off, Hohhot were already 1-0 up thanks to a penalty from Dori that had been given when Chen Fangzhuo was wrongly adjudged to have fouled Zhang Tianlong. While Lijiang were still recovering from the psychological blow of Zhang’s injury, Yin Lu took advantage of the time afforded to him in the midfield to line up an absolute thunderbolt which flew into the top corner and gave Hohhot a 2-0 lead going into the interval.
The altitude no doubt played a role as Hohhot tired in the second half and Lijiang got back into it when Meng Yang bent a beautifully weighted 16-yard curler into the top corner. Kaio then sealed a point for the home side in the last minute from the penalty spot after he was harshly judged to have been fouled by Luo Hao.
All in all, the game was a fine advert for the best and worst of League One and one hopes that Zhang Shuoke recovers soon and has another chance to make his mark this season.
Zhejiang’s Guto-guy Gets Revenge on Wuhan as Hao Qiang’s Pantomime Act Wears Thins
Wuhan’s promotion campaign took another early blow in Shaoxing when they lost to Zhejiang Yiteng thanks to a brace from their former striker Guto. Sam Johnson, the man who replaced Guto at Wuhan half-way through last season, put the visitors ahead ten minutes before the break when he prodded home from a free kick.
The goal was straightforward enough, but keen observers might have noticed Zhejiang Yiteng centre back Hao Qiang taking a dive in the foreground under a non-challenge from Li Chao. Less than ten minutes later, Hao had kicked Yao Hanlin in the head in an incident which drew blood and forced the Wuhan captain to go off. In first half stoppage time, Hao then took a blatant dive in the penalty area under another non-challenge from Su Di to win a penalty which Guto slammed straight at Wuhan goalkeeper Sun Shuobo before stumbling into the rebound which bundled over the line to equalise.
League One – Round 4
Zhejiang Yiteng 2
Guto 45+1(pen), 54′
Wuhan Zall 1
Interestingly, Hao, who had taken hilarious dives in attempts to get players sent off against Xinjiang Tianshan Leopard and Qingdao Huanghai in rounds 1 and 2 was subbed off at half-time in a possible indication that Zhejiang boss Mauricio Copertino may have tired of the former Beijing Institute of Technology defender’s antics.
All that aside, the second half belonged to Guto who struck a beuatiful free kick nine minutes after the interval. The striker, who won the 2014 League One Golden Boot with Chongqing Lifan, was more than happy to ham up the celebrations against his former club who offered little in the way of a fightback.
In this game, Hao Qiang may have been the villain, but Guto was definitely the hero and few Wuhan fans would begrudge what seems to be a thoroughly pleasant guy his moment in the sun. Hopefully, though, Copertino might keep Hao Qiang in the shade for a while.
Competitive Guangdong Derby Starts Brightly, but Fizzles Out
All eyes were on Guangdong this weekend where a derby featured one wealthy side tipped for the title taking on their upstart neighbours in a competitive game which didn’t go entirely the way of the favourites. There was also a game at Tianhe between Guangzhous Evergrande and R&F…hahaha.
League One – Round 4
Meizhou Hakka 0
Shenzhen FC 1
Of course, the game between Guangzhou Evergrande and Guangzhou R&F took all the attention on Saturday evening, but there was also a Guangdong derby taking place in Wuhua at the same time where Meizhou Hakka hosted Shenzhen FC in what was a genuinely intriguing match-up. Shenzhen were heavy favourites having won their first three matches with a combined total of twelve goals scored, but Meizhou have been greatly improved sine their limp season opener and deserved at least a draw on the balance of 90 minutes.
Although Shenzhen’s prolific striker Harold Preciado hit the woodwork with a header in the first half, Meizhou were the better side in the first 45 minutes and had more opportunities until all their hard work was undone just two minutes after the interval when Shi Hongjun unnecessarily tripped Shezhen’s Colombian striker in the penalty area and allowed him to give the visitors the winning goal from six yards.
Admittedly, the game fell short of the drama being simultaneously offered at Tianhe, but it was another example to show that Shenzhen won’t just be able to roll over opponents this year, even if they ultimately emerge triumphant.
Renhe’s 12th Man Not Needed to Maintain Home Record
Since moving to from Guizhou to Beijing in January 2016, one of Renhe’s biggest problems has been attracting a fan base in a city where Guo’an is king. Having averaged nearly 20,000 fans a game over their four seasons in Guizhou, the nomadic club had an official mean of 4,542 fans last year and that figure is almost certainly artificially inflated from a more realistic 3-3,500.
So it’s clear that Renhe sacrificed their proverbial 12th man when they relocated from Guizhou to Beijing and that fact was laid bare this week when Baoding’s travelling support of about 1,300 largely outsang and outchanted the other 3,000 fans in attendance. In order to overcome this, Renhe came up with the ingenious plan of adding a literal 12th man to their ranks when substitute Han Xuan was allowed to take to the field to replace the injured Rao Weihui, despite the latter having already returned to the field.
League One – Round 4
Beijing Renhe 1
Baoding Rongda 0
The incident happened while Renhe were defending a corner just as the clock ticked over into second half stoppage time and went unnoticed by both the officials and Baoding for about a minute until silently slipped off the field. It seemed to be a genuine misunderstanding caused by Han coming on just as the stoppage time board was being raised and the fourth official not stopping him, but it provides an interesting aside to a competitive game which had been settled in Renhe’s by a nice long range Ivo strike.
And just as Renhe didn’t need their extra man to secure the hardfought win against a continually impressive Baoding, it seems like they don’t really need their figurative 12th man either. Renhe’s record in Beijing now sits at fourteen wins, three draws and two losses across nineteen matches which is remarkable considering that the club has no historic ties with the capital and a fanbase that can be quieter than the away support.
Transcendence Happy With Perfectly Ugly Win
Having looked atrocious for a game and a half against Shenzhen FC and Beijing Renhe where they shipped a total of eight goals in 135 minutes of football, Dalian Transcendence’s turnaround continued as they secured their second straight 1-0 win in their first home game of the season. Last week they nicked a victory against a week looking Hohhot Zhongyou, but this round’s win was over a full strength Hangzhou Greentown packed full of CSL experience. What has made these two wins more remarkable is that they’ve been achieved without injured attacker Jailton Paraiba who is without doubt their best player.
League One – Round 4
Dalian Transcendence 1
Zou Dehai(o.g.) 59′
Hangzhou Greentown 0
The secret of Transcendence’s success has been a willingness to play ugly – really ugly. The club has maintained their 4-2-3-1 formation, but right-back Zhao Yibo has shifted into the midfield to partner Xue Yanan as a couple of true cloggers whose primary aim is to provide human shields for a makeshift defense. This set-up makes Rusmir Cviko’s men hard to watch, but also hard to break down. Given that the opponents were managed by the notoriously conservative Hyung Mong-bo, it’s not a surprise that this match quickly degenerated into a monumental eye-sore.
Those fans who didn’t call it a day after a dreadful first half were treated to the sight of Hangzhou goalkeeper Zou Dehai saving a weak 52nd minute Ivan Bozic penalty, only to apologize to the Bosnian seven minutes later by fumbling his post-striking header over the line for the game’s solitary score. The goal has been wrongly credited to Bozic almost everywhere, but was clearly an OG as it was heading away from the goalline when Zou’s ill-fated attempt at gathering re-routed it goalwards.
It was a fittingly messy way to win a messy game but Bozic, Cviko and Transcendence couldn’t care a bit as they earn three more precious points in what will almost certainly be a season long relegation battle.
No Surprises at Jinshan but Xinjiang’s Future Could be Bright
The home banker of the weekend was undoubtedly Shanghai Shenxin vs Xinjiang Tianshan Leopard. Shenxin may have been held at to goalless draw at Hangzhou Grrentown last weekend, but they put five past Hohhot Zhongyou the week before and have the best player in the division in the shape of tiny Brazilian attacker Biro-Biro.
Xinjiang, on the other hand, had both their starting centre backs – Vicente and Cai Xi – missing through injury and suspension and looked to be in big trouble. Indeed, their starting line-up featured two 19-year-old native Uighur midfielders making their full competitive debuts in the shape of Erpanjan Aniwar and Abduhamit Abdugheni.
League One – Round 4
Shanghai Shenxin 2
Biro-Biro 30′(pen), Gu Bin 74′
Xinjiang Tianshan Leopard 1
A first half Biro-Biro penalty after a clumsy foul from Xinjiang goalkeeper Gu Juanjie and a well struck long range Gu Bin effort in the second half gave Shenxin the lead they were always likely to accumulate, but Xinjiang kept plugging away and the boyish Aniwar’s spirit was particularly impressive as he set up Babcar Gueye’s late consolation with a pinpoint cross.
Make no mistake, Xinjiang still look like a pretty poor side, but there’s at least still some potential there and some signs that the club can transition into a more Uighur-centric identity over the next couple of years provided they can avoid relegation and the financial peril they seem to suffer from every year.