Changchun Yatai are still in a position to earn promotion, and even the China League On title, despite a 1-1 draw with Qingdao Huanghai this past weekend.
Yatai had a golden opportunity to move level on points with then-league leaders Guizhou Hengfeng, who suffered a shock defeat themselves against Shaanxi on Saturday.
Svetozar Sapuric’s men put themselves in a strong position early on thanks to leading goalscorer Tan Long’s lobbed shot from outside the area flying over Xing Yu.
Had the home side held on to their lead, they would have moved into second place behind Guizhou, while also having 48 points – the same as the leaders.
But Qingdao capitalised on a poor clearance attempt by Richairo Zivkovic, who saw the ball deflect off his leg and land perfectly for Liu Jiashen to tap home after just 16 minutes.
Yatai had the better chances throughout the game and will have felt that they deserved more at the final whistle, but a draw does not see their season end prematurely.
Thanks to Guizhou’s loss, the North-Eastern club are now just two points behind both first and second place, with four games left this season.
Changchun, unfortunately, are not completely in control of their destiny this season, needing either Qingdao or Guizhou to slip up at least once more while ensuring their own results keep them in the hunt.
But they do find themselves having a strong chance of succeeding if they can continue to build on their positive performances over the past two weeks.
The return of Brazilian forward Maurides from injury will also be a positive for the club, who have often started games with Zivkovic playing as the sole import player.
A strong end to the season could see Changchun Yatai snatch a promotion spot away from either Guizhou or Qingdao, but it will require Sapuric’s men to be at the top of their game 100% of the time.
There will be an opportunity for some rest and recovery before the final stage of the season, with a lengthy international break allowing Yatai’s players an opportunity to work on improvements and having a fully healthy squad ready to compete.
With three teams sitting just two points behind Changchun Yatai, the 2007 CSL Champions will need to be at their very best and will need to ensure they strike early, with the penultimate game of the season again Zhejiang Greentown particularly important.