Shandong increase CSL lead

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 July, 2006, 12:00am

Leaders Shandong Luneng look unstoppable in their charge towards the Chinese Super League title after notching up their 14th win in 19 league games yesterday.

A brace from former Chinese international Li Jinyu, plus an own-goal by Shenzhen Kingway defender Li Jianhua, powered Shandong to a fifth victory in a row.

The coastal CSL side have amassed 45 points, 11 more than second-placed Beijing Hyundai, with nine fixtures remaining. In stark contrast, eight-time champions Dalian Shide, by far the most dominant team since the league turned professional, continued their dismal recent run of form, going down 1-0 away at Xiamen Lions on Saturday. It was Dalian's fourth defeat in the past five rounds.

The team's morale took a further dent as speculation widened in the media that Shide Group, the major patron of the northeast club, would pull the plug on its backing next season, something denied outright by a key team official.

'Shide will definitely keep its commitment to pro soccer in the forseeable future,' said Lin Lefeng, the club's general manager and head of coaching staff, according to Titan Sports newspaper. 'Admittedly, we have encountered some unprecedented hardships this season, but no one should doubt our passion for soccer.'

Dalian were eliminated from the group stage of the AFC Champions League in May and have little hope of defending the CSL title from their current position. They are in seventh place, on 24 points in the standings.