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Round Overshadowed By Tiote’s Death & More Managerial Changes: 8 Talking Points from League One – Round 12

Football seems a little less important this week in the wake of the passing of Beijing BG player Cheick Tiote. In many ways, the 30-year-old’s death is the only story that matters this week, but with technical difficulties keeping this article off-line for two weeks, there are plenty of other things to discuss – including three managerial changes since our last update.  

Beijing BG Win Matters Little Following Tiote’s Death

Gao Hongbo’s Beijing BG were celebrating their best performance of the season on Saturday evening following a comprehensive 4-2 victory over Baoding Rongda during which they ran out into a comfortable four goal lead before taking their foot off the gas and letting their opponents back into it. Less than 48 hours later, however, the game had been all but forgotten as their Ivorian player Cheick Tiote collapsed during a Monday evening training session and was pronounced dead in hospital soon after.

China League One – Round 12

Beijing BG
Bu Xin 5′, Jin Hui 10′, Yan Xiangchuang 22′(pen), Wang Jianwen 54′

Baoding Rongda 2

Owoeri 56′, 89′(pen)

Attendance: 5,436

The cause of the former Newcastle United midfielder’s death is yet to be confirmed, but to say that his passing at the age of 30 is a tragedy would be an exercise in understatement. Given the six years he spent in the spotlight of the English Premier League with Newcastle and his international career with the Ivory Coast, Tiote’s death caused shockwaves around the footballing world and has provoked great outpourings of sadness from those who worked with them in the past.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, BG have made a request to the CFA to be allowed to sign an extra foreign player during this summer’s transfer window and also asked that this Saturday’s game away to Meizhou Hakka be re-arranged. At the time of writing, the CFA are yet to reply to the former request, while it seems as though Meizhou have rejected the latter. This means that BG’s players will have to take to the field just five days after witnessing their teammate collapse in front of them.

When Qingdao Huanghai midfielder Goran Gogic passed away two seasons ago, the club had to play Hunan Billows just three days later in what proved to be a very emotional affair. How BG react remains to be seen, but football doesn’t seem to matter as much now that a 30-year-old man with a young family has passed away.

WEF would like to send its condolence’s to the family and friends of Cheick Tiote.

Wang Baoshan Surprising Casualty of Shenzhen-Renhe Stalemate

When the full-time whistle blew at the end of Shenzhen FC’s dull 0-0 draw with Beijing Renhe, it seemed likely that one of the managers in charge would have lost his job by the following weekend. However, few would have expected it to be Renhe boss Wang Baoshan whose offer to resign was accepted by the club and officially announced on Thursday.

At first glance, the decision seems like a strange one given that Renhe are second in the table with an unbeaten record and a game in hand over third placed Wuhan Zall. However, the club have also now drawn four games in a row, scoring just once in the process. Given that Wang fell well short of the targeted promotion last season, it seems as though the owners, who recently acquired English Championship side Reading, believe their best chance of a return to the Super League may lie elsewhere.

China League One – Round 12

Shenzhen FC 0

Beijing Renhe 0

Attendance: 11,863

Of course, the decision to accept Wang’s resignation looks especially harsh given that Shenzhen manager Sven Goran Eriksson remains in a job despite now going seven league games without a win. By the end of the game, chants for Sven to go were ringing out around the stadium and there was a bizarre scene at the end of the game when some angry supporters attempted to storm the post-match press conference. Chaos outside the stadium even resulted in some fans being arrested, as frustrations at what look to be rapidly evaporating promotion hopes boiled over.

Things might have all been very different for the Swede if a farcical series of second half events had turned out differently. The chain of events started when returning winger Aboubakar Oumarou took a dive in the penalty area under a non-challenge from current international man of the moment Deng Hanwen. The referee awarded Shenzhen a penalty which League One topscorer Harold Preciado duly dispatched. However, perhaps realising that he had made an error in the first place, the referee decided order a retake due to a slight penalty area encroachment by Shenzhen’s Zhang Jiaqi. Preciado blasted the retake high and wide and, despite Renhe players encroaching into the area, the miss stood and Shenzhen had to settle for a draw.

Despite all these problems, Sven survives for now, but he still looks the odds on favourite to become the ninth League One manager to lose his job this season. Still, he had looked the odds on favourite to be the eighth, but that honour went to Wang. The former Chongqing Lifan boss will be replaced by assistant Zhu Yongsheng, with some reports saying the club is in talk with a Spanish manager to take the role long term.

Mushekwi’s Missed Penalty Keeps Promotion Race Close

Dalian Yifang were a missed penalty away from turning a two goal deficit into a 3-2 victory on Sunday evening and the rest of the league will have been delighted that Nyasha Mushekwi slid his stoppage time spot kick wide. Had Yifang won, they’d have climbed six points clear of third placed Wuhan Zall, but Mushekwi’s miss means that it is the top eight sides in the division who are now separated by the same margin.

China League One – Round 12

Dalian Yifang 2
Mushekwi 46′, Boli 49′

Shanghai Shenxin 2                          Biro-Biro 4′, Gu Bin 32′

Attendance: 15,231

At the end of the first half, any prospect of a Yifang win looked out of the question with Shenxin holding a 2-0 lead. The visitors got off to a lightening quick start when Brazilian forward Biro-Biro fired them ahead in the fourth minute and the lead was doubled just after the half hour mark thanks to a rasping left-foot shot from Gu Bin.

However, any hopes that Shenxin had of finishing the round in the promotion places disappeared within four minutes of the restart when goals from Mushekwi and Yannick Boli levelled things up. Shenxin were reeling and looked like they might fall apart, but managed to hold on until the 90th minute when Mushekwi won a penalty for a foul by Raul Rodriguez. Feeling that the Zimbabwean international had dived, Shenxin’s players were furious and spent a considerable amount of time goading Mushekwi before he placed his penalty wide.

On the balance of 90 minutes, Yifang probably deserved to take three points, but Shenxin held their own and have kept the race for top spot extremely close. With Yifang’s results tailing off, Beijing Renhe in turmoil, and Shenxin, Wuhan Zall and Shijiazhuang Ever Bright all looking resurgent, there is still everything to play for in the top half of the table.

Zou Dehai Saves Struggling Hangzhou from Another Hammering

Two week’s ago, Hangzhou Greentown’s 4-0 defeat away to Qingdao Huanghai saw Korean manager Hong Myung-bo’s leave his post to be replaced by assistant coach Xu Lei. On paper, it looked as though the post-Hong era got off to a decent start with a 1-1 home draw against league leaders Dalian Yifang, but that result came thanks to a stoppage time equaliser from Anselmo Ramon during a game in which Hangzhou played very poorly.

China League One – Round 12

Wuhan Zall 1 
Yao Hanlin 84′

Hangzhou Greentown 0

Attendance: 13,203

This weekend, Hangzhou almost earned another impressive looking draw with Wuhan Zall, only to be undone by Yao Hanlin’s 84th minute strike. Had Yao’s 20-yard effort not found the net, though, Hangzhou would have left Hubei with yet another point they didn’t deserve as Wuhan had chance after chance to score, only to be denied by some remarkable goalkeeping from Zou Dehai. Not only did the 24-year-old save Marcelo Moreno’s first half penalty, he made eight other stops throughout the 90 minutes. Some were fairly routine, but others were borderline spectacular, with a full stretch save from a sudden and powerful Moreno overhead kick the best of the bunch.

Zou’s performance meant that he didn’t deserve to be beaten by Yao’s late goal, but Hangzhou certainly did and they look to be in big trouble moving forward. Upon leaving the club, Hong wrote an open letter in which he was particularly critical of owner Song Weiping’s policy of including several under-20 players in the team every week. The former South Korea national team boss made the argument that this policy wasn’t doing the the team or the youngsters any good and there seems to be the case based on recent performances. Of the four under-20 players who started on Saturday, only midfielder Wu Wei really looks ready for regular game time, with full back Tong Lei struggling for consistency and wingers Gao Huaze and Wang Dongsheng appearing out of their depth.

The good news for Greentown is that foreign players Ramon and Denilson Gabionetta are both back to fitness and Australian centre back Matthew Spiranovic may finally be healthy enough to make his season debut next week after travelling to Wuhan and appearing for the reserves. With all the restrictions and issues the team is facing at the moment, even having three fit foreign players might not be enough to decisively turn their season around and, at the moment, the club look like they could be in for a second successive relegation battle.

Not Much for Yiteng Fans to Look Forward to as Tot Replaces Copertino

Before Wang Baoshan lost his job at Beijing Renhe, Zhejiang Yiteng boss Mauricio Copertino became the league’s seventh managerial departure of the season in the wake of round 11’s 3-1 home defeat to Dalian Transcendence. With Yiteng just three points behind the promotion places, the move seemed like a major head scratcher given that they finished thirteenth last year and nobody expected them to climb much above mid-table this year.

China League One – Round 12

Zhejiang Yiteng 0 

Yunnan Lijiang 0

Attendance: 3,258

The official word from the club is that the departure was one of mutual consent as a result of disagreements over the long term visions, but one common thread of speculation is that the club’s owners don’t actually want promotion to the CSL and that the Brazilian boss has been doing too well in his first ever head coaching job. If that is the case, a disappointing home loss to Dalian Transcendence provided the club with a suitable excuse to get rid of the former Henan Jianye player.

Assistant Wang Jun took charge for this week’s disappointing 0-0 home draw with Yunnan Lijiang and it was announced on Wednesday that Marijo Tot would be returning to take charge of the club. The Croatian oversaw the second half of Yiteng’s solitary Super League season when they were still based in Harbin in 2014 and then guided Changchun Yatai to CSL safety in 2015.

The 45-year-old may not be a terrible choice but it seems like a step backwards for a club who looked like they were starting to make a break with the past by bringing in some new blood in the shape of Copertino. Accusations that the club doesn’t want promotion certainly won’t be helped by such an uninspiring appointment and, if that is what the ownership is really aiming for, a few more performances like the one against Lijiang this weekend will do the trick.

In fairness to the visitors, it should be noted that this is now their fourth game unbeaten and they have climbed out of the relegation zone since our last update.

Unhappy Bojinov Won’t be Missed by Meizhou

It was reported in Bulgarian media last week that Meizhou Hakka attacker Valeri Bojinov wants to leave the club after less than half a season in Guangdong. The 31-year-old former Manchester City and Juventus forward has apparently said some less than flattering things about playing in the second tier of Chinese football, and Asia in general, and was left out of Meizhou’s starting line-up for their relegation six-pointer away Baoding Rongda in round 11.

China League One – Round 12

Meizhou Hakka 2
Dogan 73′, Japa 82′(pen)

Xinjiang Tianshan Leopard 2  Herman 30′(pen), 53′

Attendance: 5,325

The former Bulgaria international was picked up as the highest profile signing in the club’s history shortly before the transfer window closed in February but, aside from a fine performance against Wuhan Zall in round 2, he has been a massive bust with his failure to settle being evident in some lackluster on pitch performances.

The 31-year-old started against Xinjiang Tianshan Leopanrd this week, but was poor again and was subbed off shortly after Yves Ekwealla Herman gave Xinjiang a 53rd minute 2-0 lead. The goal was Herman’s second of the match, having won and scored a 30th minute penalty after arguing with teammate Babacar Gueye over who should take it. It was the Cameroonian’s sixth goal in four games, but wasn’t enough to secure the win as Bojinov’s replacement, Shi Hongjun, helped drive a comeback which started with a 73rd minute goal from Onur Dogan and was completed when Japa scored a penalty ten minutes later.

Failing to pick up all three points will have been a major disappointment for Meizhou, who relied on their home form to keep them up last season, and it wouldn’t be a big surprise if Bojinov was dropped again for the visit of Beijing BG on Saturday. The Bulgarian’s summer departure is yet to be confirmed, but he is unlikely to be missed by anybody at the club who are likely already looking for a replacement to bring in when the transfer window opens on June 19th.

Davi Signing Could Help Turn Hohhot’s Performances Into Results

Hohhot Zhongyou lost a third straight game this week when they went down 2-1 away to Shijiazhuang Ever Bright, and for a third straight game they probably didn’t deserve to lose. Dori gave the visitors a 1-0 lead just 13 minutes in after an electric run from teammate Malik Mane set him up, but two controversial decisions meant that Shijiazhuang came away with the win.

China League One – Round 12

Shijiazhuang Ever Bright 2
Matheus 31′(pen), Mulenga 59

Hohhot Zhongyou 1                      Dori 13′

Attendance: 13,213

The first was on the half hour mark when Yin Lu was harshly penalised for a handball in the area having slipped over. The decision allowed Matheus to equalise from the spot, and the Brazilian was involved in the second controversy when his scissor kick set up Jacob Mulenga to win the game 15 minutes into the second half. The problem was that not only did Mulenga look to be in an offside position when he received the ball, but that he appeared to control it with his hand before firing home.

Zhongyou’s players were understandably furious, but they couldn’t channel that anger into an equaliser. Having been the better side in a 1-0 defeat to Dalian Yifang in round 10 and been cost at least a point by some calamitous goalkeeping in a 3-1 defeat to Wuhan Zall the following week, Zhongyou now sit just one point clear of the relegation places.

Their fortunes may change soon, though, thanks to the signing of Brazilian playmaker Davi, who will join the club when the transfer window opens on June 19th. The 33-year-old made his name in China with Guangzhou R&F, who he helped take to their first and only AFC Champions League place, before moving to Shanghai SIPG where he placed second in the Super League in his solitary season. It is still unclear whether Davi will replace Mane, Dori or Andre Senghor in Hohhot’s squad, but he should give their attack a lot more creativity to help push them over the line in these tight games.

Last season, the Brazilian played a similar role at Shanghai Shenxin where he joined a relegation battle halfway through the year and, along with new manager Gary White, helped turn the team’s attack into the league’s most deadly.

Comfortable Huanghai Win Reasserts Home Dominance

Dalian Transcendence have been the surprise package of the season so far, but even they couldn’t work a miracle away to Qingdao Huanghai whose home record remains remarkable over the last two seasons. The visitors were 2-0 down at half-time thanks to a Joan Verdu penalty and a goal from Hong Kong international Godfred Karikari, but they kept fighting and pulled a goal back through Zhang Jian 12 minutes after the interval. Had Transcendence not been missing lightening quick attacker Jailton Paraiba, they may have been able to take advantage of Huanghai’s defensive frailties to complete the comeback, but it wasn’t to be and Verdu secured the win with a beautiful lob 20 minutes before the end.

China League One – Round 12

Qingdao Huanghai 3 
Verdu 26′(pen), 70′, Karikari 36

Dalian Transcendence 1         Zhang Jian 57′

Attendance: 5,966

The win means that Huanghai have taken 16 points from a possible 18 at home this season, while picking up just one win in five road games. More impressively, the Shandong side’s home record since Jordi Vinyals took the helm prior to the 2016 season is now 17 wins, 3 draws and 1 defeat. The away record remains a serious issue, but if Vinyals’s men can keep up this home form for the rest of the season, while picking up the odd win on the road, they will again be in the promotion mix in what is looking to be another very tight League One season.

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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