Matt Sullivan takes his regular-ish look at news from the Chinese footballing hotbed of Liaoning province
Liaoning FC secured league one status for next season with a pair of scrappy wins, while also effectively dooming Dalian Transcendence to relegation.
Liaoning 3 – 2 Nei Mongol Zhongyou
First up was the visit of Zhongyou from Hohhot, and Liaoning took the lead straight from kickoff. A long ball to the inside left channel caught the Mongolians’ defence dozing and allowed Zhang Yanjun to lob the despairing Zhu Zilin; one-nil before the fans had even sat down. Hohhot found their feet quickly, and the game settled into the sort of pattern you’d expect from a pair of teams on the edge of the league one relegation zone. It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t memorable.
Midway through the half, Zhang Ye snapped into a mistimed tackle in the centre circle, snapping his left leg in the process. To add insult to horrific injury, he was booked as he was stretchered into the ambulance.
Coming up to half time and Zhongyou equalized. A corner from the left was only half-cleared and from 30 yards out Dori hammered the ball home with a Paul Scholes-esque volley, flying through the bodies past Zhang Zhenqiang’s dive; a goal worthy of a better stage than this game, and 1-1 going into the break.
Liaoning took the lead again in the second half, almost inevitably through Jacob Mulenga. Shortly afterwards Hohhot equalized again, converting a free kick from around 25 yards out with around 15 minutes remaining. The game continued to pingpong about, with both sides huffing and puffing but with no sign of a knockout blow, until deep, deep into Fergietime a cross came into the box, and after ricocheting around almost everybody, the ball bobbed up for Lei Yongchi, brought on as an 88th minute substitute, to head home from a yard out, scoring the winner with the last meaningful touch of the game and spark delirium among the bumper crowd of almost but not quite 3,000. 3-2.
Dalian Transcendence 0-1 Liaoning
Next was the visit to Dalian Transcendence and the historic Jinzhou stadium. Again both sides showed why they are in the lower reaches of the league. Full marks for effort but not so much for artistic impression. Both sets of supporters kept themselves mightily entertained, enjoying the late afternoon sunshine, singing a few songs and hurling lusty gobfuls of abuse at one another from the beginning. The winning goal came late in the first half, Mulenga dinked a short cross from the right and the man with the golden head, Andy Russell did the rest. 1-0 to the visitors.
Sadly the most memorable parts of the day weren’t on the pitch; one of the Liaoning team coaching staff was felled by a flying mineral water bottle as the match ended, and then after the final whistle the home fans came to the away end gate bearing more mineral water for our long journey home. Unfortunately the police wouldn’t let them near so they had to throw the bottles to us, lots of them, to make sure we didn’t go thirsty. Still, eventually after a detour across the pitch and through the guts of the stadium under police escort, we got out and took our three points home.
So that’s pretty much the end of the season for Liaoning FC as far as meaningful games go. We’re safe from relegation, we’re not getting anywhere near the playoffs with three games left, so there’ll just be the party after the last home game with Heilongjiang. Shenyang Urban Construction, (catchy name) kept their season going for one week more with a scoreless draw at home to Nantong in the playoffs, then lost the second leg. They did set a record though for the oldest scorer in Chinese professional football – bringing their owner on as a sub to score a penalty against Baotou.