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Zhejiang Derby Starts With a Bang+Losses for Shenzhen & Huanghai: 8 Talking Points from League One – Round 9

Only seven matches this week but, as ever, we’ve still managed to rustle up eight talking points in a round dominated by the Zhejiang derby. Away from Shaoxing, there were big losses for both Shenzhen and Huanghai and a repeat of a 2016 final. Not to mention Beijing Renhe and Dalian Yifang having a great week of courtesy of the Belt and Road Forum.

Yiteng Beat Greentown in What is Definitely a Zhejiang Derby

Two goals in the space of two second half minutes saw Yiteng defeat Hangzhou Greentown and climb above them in the table in the first edition of what already looks like developing into a fiercely contested Zhejiang derby. With Yiteng only moving to Shaoxing from Harbin in early 2016, much of the pre-match focus of Greentown fans had been on denying that this match was a derby at all as “Zhejiang only has Greentown”. A rehashing of the now infamous “Only Shenhua Rep Shanghai” banner wasn’t especially imaginative, but pre-match photoshops comparing Yiteng to a stray dog creatively served to mock the club’s moves from Dalian to Shandong to Harbin as part of their nomadic past.

China League One – Round 9

Zhejiang Yiteng 2
Castelen 57′, Hughes 59

Hangzhou Greentown 0

Attendance: 11,258

However, despite the denial of Greentown’s supporters, this game has all the hallmarks of a derby both on and off the field. Following on from much pre-match online vitriol, there were scuffles between opposing sets of fans outside the stadium which resulted in some pop-up stalls being trashed. This transferred into the Textile City Stadium where the approximately 11,000 in attendance created a raucous atmosphere in what was easily the best attended Yiteng game since they moved to Shaoxing.

A real cabbage patch of a pitch meant that the quality of football on display was always going to be compromised and the two sides played out an ugly, but compellingly hard-fought battle. Hampered by injuries to all three foreign players, a young Greentown side featuring five under-23s looked a little overawed by the occasion and Yiteng’s smashmouth style allowed them to become increasingly dominate as the game went on.

The deadlock was broken in the 57th minute when Greentown’s Ge Zhen flicked a Romeo Castelen free kick past his own goalkeeper. The goal was credited to Castelen as his delivery was going on target before Ge’s intervention and any hopes of a Greentown fightback were put to rest less than two minutes later when Adam Hughes long range shot bobbled past Zou Dehai to seal the win. Both goals were wildly celebrated by Yiteng players and fans, and Greentown’s frustration was palpable as the game became increasingly testy towards the end.

Greentown supporters can say what they like about this not being a derby, but all the ingredients are already there. A match between two local rivals that are on a similar level means the match already has the criteria required to fit the bill. More importantly, the game clearly means a great deal to both sets of supporters and players, and there is no chance that Greentown fans will be as worked up about any other fixture this season. If you want to argue that a game is not a derby, it has to be a situation where at least one set of fans is largely disinterested in the match and that’s clearly not the case here.

Barring a relaxation of the CFA’s rule change last year which now forbids teams from relocating, this fixture is here to stay and Yiteng’s fanbase will grow as the years go by. Greentown supporters may not like the idea of sharing their province with another professional football team, but their derby denial just doesn’t ring true.

Tang Yaodong gets revenge on Shenzhen

Just over ten months ago, a Shenzhen side which had barely avoided relegation in 2015, sat in seventh position with 17 matches played and within touching distance of the promotion places. At that point, ambitious new owners Kaisa Group decided to ditch unglamorous manager Tang Yaodong in favour of Dutch playing legend Clarence Seedorf. The move backfired spectacularly and came back to haunt the club for a second time this weekend when Tang’s new side Wuhan Zall inflicted a third straight defeat on Sven Goran Ericksson’s pre-season promotion favourites.

China League One – Round 9

Shenzhen FC 0

Wuhan Zall 1
Moreno 69′

Attendance: 13,592

The win wasn’t a pretty one in a game where neither side’s much vaunted attacking trios flourished, but Wuhan’s Marcelo Moreno was able to make the difference when he headed home Nie Aoshuang’s cross with just over 20 minutes remaining. Shenzhen were probably the better side over 90 minutes and deserved at least a draw, but their problems are mounting quickly and a season in which promotion looked a certainty just a month ago is in danger of unraveling as injuries and suspensions begin to mount up.

Cui Min missed this game through injury and central defensive partner Wang Dalong was serving the the first part of a five game suspension for his horror challenge on Nyahsha Mushekwi last week. More importantly, playmaker Xu Liang is struggling for fitness and dynamic winger Aboubakar Oumarou was stretchered off early in the second half with what looked like a serious muscular injury.

Tang won’t care about Shenzhen’s excuses, though, as he oversees a big win for his club and sticks a proverbial finger up at his old bosses. Wuhan’s own display was far from impressive, though, and the former Henan Jianye manager won’t have long to revel in this victory with league leaders Beijing Renhe rolling into town next week.

Life’s a Pitch for Huanghai in Mongolia Loss

Qingdao Huanghai suffered their fourth defeat on the road in five games in what was arguably their worst performance of the season. Without injured striker Dorde Rakic, suspended midfielder Ma Xingyu and manager Jordi Vinyals, who was serving a one match stadium ban, the Shandong club floundered against a motivated Hohhot Zhongyou side. The visitors do have a ready-made excuse, though, and that’s the state of the host’s pitch which looks more suitable for farming vegetables than hosting professional football matches.

China League One – Round 9

Hohhot Zhongyou 2
Senghor 15′, Dori 29

Qingdao Huanghai 0 

Attendance: 7,402

Huanghai’s impressive passing game was totally neutralised by the tufts, lumps and sand patches the ball had to roll over and it was apparent early on that their fluid style of keep ball would have to be put on hold for this game. From the early stages, centre back Marti Crespi was hoofing long balls down field instead of threading passes into the midfield and this way of playing greatly favoured Hohhot who did the same thing, but to much better effect.

First half goals from Andre Senghor and Dori both came thanks to headers from Zhang Tianxiang set pieces and, while Huanghai did have their chances in the second half, Hohhot comfortably defended their lead as their visitors toiled with their more direct style. Nothing should be taken away from a Zhongyou side which featured several impressive individual performances and defended well as a collective, but there is no doubt that their pitch proved to be a valuable asset in securing their third win of the season.

Cheik-mate for Gao Hongbo as Tinkering Pays Dividends

Beijing BG finally earned their first win of the season with a surprising 2-1 victory away to Shanghai Shenxin. Having suffered defeats to Hohhot Zhongyou and Hangzhou Greentown in his first two matches in charge, manager Gao Hongbo finally picked up three points and made one of his infamous creative tactical adjustments in order to do so. His strange alterations backfired in the first two weeks, but came good this time around as he took the interesting step of dropping midfielder Chiek Tiote back to play in the centre of defence.

China League One – Round 9

Shanghai Shenxin 1 
Liu Yi 46′ (o.g)

Beijing BG 2
Jin Hui 27′, Wang Jianwen 67′

Attendance: 3,686

The former Newcastle United midfielder, who has spent his entire career in the midfield, was hardly a revalation in the role, but he coped fine with a Shenxin attack blunted by the absence of the injured Cleiton Silva. Tiote’s departure from the midfield allowed Song Yi to return to the team as the under-23 player, meaning that left-winger Bu Xin could take the field ahead of recent U23 starter Xu Borui, which was a great benefit to BG’s attack.

Bu assisted Jin Hui’s opener after 27 minutes as BG looked far better than they had all season. Gao’s men were unfortunate to be pegged back by a Liu Yi own goal just after half-time, but won the game when Wang Jianwen struck his fifth of the season midway through the second half.

It’s just one win for a side that remains bottom of the table nine games into the season, but it’s a sign that Gao is getting to grips with the team and that they are getting to grips with him.

Repeat of League Two Final May Not be Enough Kick-start Lijiang’s Season

Prior to this week, Yunnan Lijiang’s last victory in league competition came in October 2016 when they defeated Baoding Yingli Yitong in the League Two playoff final and history repeated itself on Saturday when the “Flying Tigers” overcame their opponents 2-1. A lively start saw both sides have plenty of chances, but Lijiang took there’s as goals from Su Shun and Men Yang gave them a 2-0 half-time lead. Baoding saw most of the ball in a slow paced second half, but did little with it and only managed a late consolation when Li Yan headed home in stoppage time.

China League One – Round 9

Yunnan Lijiang 2 
Su Shun 21′, Men Yang 30′

Baoding Yingli Yitong 1 
Li Yan 90+3

Attendance: 2,801

With the architect of last year’s League Two triumph Zhang Biao now back as head coach, the club will be hoping that this win will act as a catalyst to kick-start their ailing season. That might be wishful thinking, though, as Baoding seem to be in serious decline after a bright start to the year. Indeed, with Beijing BG also earning their first win this week, it looks like both these sides are in for a fight to avoid an immediate return to the third tier

Meizhou Ride Their Luck Again Ahead of Possible Stankov Appointment

Last week, Meizhou Hakka earned a somewhat fortunate victory over Shanghai Shenxin and they were also lucky to escape Dalian with a point this week as Transcendence should have already been well out of sight by the time Valery Bojinov equalised with an 83rd minute penalty. The Bulgarian’s spot kick came about following a foul by Otkur Hasan on Chen Jianlong, but only a combination of exceptional goalkeeping from Hou Yu and poor finishing from Transcendence meant that the goal was an equaliser, rather than a consolation. It is worth noting, though, that the hosts were somewhat fortunate to be in the lead themselves as Wang Hongyou’s first half penalty came thanks to a clumsy and unnecessary handball from Yang Wenji.

China League One – Round 9

Dalian Transcendence 1 
Wang Hongyou 3′ (pen)

Meizhou Hakka 1 
Bojinov 83′ (pen)

Attendance: 2,633

The point takes Meizhou up to nine points, but results elsewhere mean they are now just four points above the drop zone with the probable appointment of a new manager on the horizon. Bulgarian Aleksander Stankov is currently in Guangdong and, although some places are reporting that he’s already been given the post, acting head coach and general manager Cao Yang stated yesterday that the appointment is yet to be confirmed.

The 52-year-old made his name in China when he guided Dalian Aerbin to promotion back in 2010, but his subsequent job with Hunan Billows in 2015 saw him fired just two months into the season. Given what happened to Billows the following year, it’s hard to gauge too much about Stankov’s career from that brief spell but, should he be given the job, he faces a difficult task at Meizhou who have also proven to have a trigger-happy ownership.

Herman Monster Comes to Life but Shijiazhuang Escape Xinjiang with Draw

A sensational brace from Yves Ekwalla Herman helped Xinjiang earn a point against Shijiazhuang Ever Bright in a game which stared with a flurry but ended in a whimper. All four strikes in the 2-2 tie came within the first 30 minutes as Xinjiang’s Cameroonian striker finally scored his first goals for the club.

China League One – Round 9

Xinjiang Tiansha Leopard 2
Herman 11′, 15′

Shijiazhuang Ever Bright 2
Adriano 3′, Guo Sheng 29′

Attendance: 2,341

It took Adriano just three minutes to put the visitors into the lead after Matheus had capitalised on an error from Yan Zhiyu to provide the chance. The advantage lasted just 8 minutes though, as Herman took Babacar Gueye’s cross on his chest before swiveling and firing a left foot effort past Shijiazhuang goalkeeper Bai Xiaolei. Within four minutes, the 27-year-old had done it again, but this time he chested on to his right foot and finished from even further out. Xinjiang’s lead didn’t last too long as Guo Sheng reacted to a mistake from goalkeeper Gu Juanjie to level things up with less than 30 minutes gone, and that’s how things remained.

Dropping points at home is always a disappointment for Xinjiang who rely on their form in Urumqi to keep them in the league every season, but Herman’s sudden burst of form will be cause for optimism. The converted centre back scored 28 goals across two seasons with Guizhou Zhicheng which saw them morph from relegation favourites into CSL promotion winners. Nobody in Xinjiang was expecting a top flight birth when they signed Herman, but they were expecting goals and this week he provided them in style.

Renhe and Yifang Both Winners On Week Off

The curiously titled Belt and Road Forum meant that League One fans were denied a top of the table clash this week with China’s security conscious government deciding that Beijing Renhe’s Fengtai Stadium couldn’t possibly be properly policed at the same time that visiting heads of state were in the capital. That meant a week off for both Renhe and Dalian Yifang, and both teams would no doubt have been very happy with how things turned out as they enjoyed their rest.

The three teams below them – Shenzhen FC, Shanghai Shenxin and Hangzhou Greentown – all lost, as did potential promotion rivals Qingdao Huanghai. A win for Zhejiang Yiteng saw them pull within two points of Renhe, but it would be a surprise if they maintain their early season form when a string of away matches start piling up later in the year.

All in all, the visit of Putin and co. to the nation’s capital has worked out great for both Renhe and Yifang and, based on what happened this week, it wouldn’t be a surprise if this is still a top two clash when the rearranged fixture is played at the end of July.

 

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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