Chinese Super League

One step forward and two steps back as Chinese Super League makes less than impressive start

First game of 2017 season between Guizhou Zhicheng and Liaoning Whowin is played at an empty Guiyang Olympic Sports Centre

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 March, 2017, 4:36pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 March, 2017, 4:44pm

The Chinese Super League failed to put its best foot forward on Friday’s as the season opening draw between Guizhou Zhicheng and Liaoning Whowin was played out in front of an empty stadium, with officials also seeing their highly-commendable under 23 policy pulled apart after just 20 minutes.

The decision to play the first game of the 2017 season between newly-promoted Guizhou and visitors Liaoning instead of a tie involving Carlos Tevez’s Shanghai Shenhua or Oscar’s Shanghai SIPG had already raised eyebrows before kick off.

And they rose even higher as before the match started at Guiyang Olympic Sports Centre, it was confirmed the tie would be played behind closed door as a punishment for Guizhou following trouble involving fans during their meeting with Tianjin Quanjian in League One last season.

Liaoning coach Ma Lin then, after seeing Zambian frontman James Chamanga net the first goal of the new season from the penalty spot after just 14 minutes, opted to withdraw 21 year-old Wang Qiao before the clock had reached the 20 minute mark.

Wang was in the side up so Liaoning could comply with the Chinese Football Associations rules that state each team must have one under 23 player in their starting line-up.

Officials have reduced the number of foreign players allowed from four to three for this season, and replaced that with a requirement to field a Chinese played aged under 23 in a bid to improve domestic players and in turn hopefully help the national team.

Nikica Jelavic earns Guizhou Zhicheng 1-1 draw with 10-man Liaoning Whowin in Chinese Super League opener

Ma saw former West Ham United, Hull City, Everton and Rangers striker Nikica Jelavic net a second half penalty as Guizhou fought before the visitors had goalkeeper Shi Xiaotian sent off just after the hour mark only to hold on for a 1-1 draw.

“When young players start the match, they must have a lot of pressure. Today the opponent’s tactics were very specific and targeted, they came for him [Wang] in particular and if things kept going like that, this U-23 player would have had more pressure. So in order to keep the balance we made the decision to replace him,” said Ma.

Watch: Guizhou Zhicheng v Liaoning Whowin highlights

“I am very satisfied to earn one point away, especially considering we were one man down during the second half.

“We maintained our fighting spirit and the players did their best, but we didn’t play as well as the opponent as their short passes and cooperation was much better than us.

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“We have a lot of young players this year, sometimes when they got the ball they weren’t so confident. When they were under pressure they were scared to kick the ball and we need to improve on this aspect.”

Guizhou, in contrast, fielded two under 23 players from the start with Liang Xueming only replaced inside the final 15 minutes, while Min Junlin played the entire match in midfield with Hong Kong’s Festus Baise.

“We look into their ability and form, if they meet our standard, then they will play. We don’t need to judge if the U-23 policy is reasonable because it’s fair to every team,” said said Guizhou coach Li Bing.

“The opponents took advantage of our mistake and took the lead. It was difficult for us to equalise, but we made it.

“I felt regretful that we couldn’t score more goals when they were one man down. The players wanted so badly to win the game that they neglected many details.”