Changchun Yatai picked up a much-needed 2-1 away victory over ‘local’ rivals Liaoning FC, putting themselves in touching distance of a promotion spot.
The North-Eastern sides clashed in Shenyang and three points were needed from both, with Changchun desperate to sneak into the promotion spots and Liaoning hoping to avoid dropping down into the third tier.
It was the visitors that got off to a bright start and looked to be taking control of the game when Zhang Li’s edge of the box strike avoided the crowds in front and hit the back of the net.
In true Changchun Yatai style, Svetozar Sapuric’s side sat back and allowed Liaoning to go on the offensive, with the visitors’ inconsistent defending allowing the home side to pull things level.
35-year-old Zambian international striker Jacob Mulenga received the ball on the edge of Changchun’s area before turning and slotting a fairly tame shot into the far corner and out of reach of Shi Xiaotian.
Liaoning, buoyed by being back on level pegging, threatened Changchun far more consistently throughout the game before things began to even up in the second half.
Heading into the final five minutes of the game, it looked as if Changchun Yatai had wasted yet another great opportunity to pick up points.
But it was arguably the team’s Player of the Year, Tan Long, that secured them the winner with a strong, well-placed shot that tucked away into the far corner with just four minutes left to go.
Tan Long has been such a consistent threat for Changchun Yatai this season and the loyalty he showed to the club after suffering relegation has helped keep them firmly in the hunt for an immediate return.
With Guizhou Hengfeng suffering a shock loss to Sichuan Longfor, Changchun now sit just three points behind the league leaders and just two behind second-placed Qingdao Huanghai.
With Qingdao visiting Changchun next Saturday, the North-Eastern club have an excellent opportunity to stake a claim on an automatic promotion spot.
Having suffered back-to-back defeats prior to their trip to Liaoning, nerves will have undoubtedly crept into the club but being in this position with five more games to go really means Changchun can control their own destiny.
A strong showing will be needed next weekend if Sapuric’s men hope to defeat Qingdao and consistency will be key if they hope to jump back into the Chinese Super League after just one season away.