Chinese Super League ends in drama as Changchun Yatai miss Odion Ighalo, while Yannick Carrasco keeps Dalian Yifang up
- Chongqing Lifan beat the drop despite losing 1-0 at relegated Guizhou Zhicheng
- Tianjin Teda survive while losing 5-1 at home to 10-man Guangzhou Evergrande
Changchun Yatai’s 13-season stay in the Chinese Super League has come to an end after losing to newly promoted Dalian Yifang on a dramatic final day of the season.
It was win or bust for both sides in a last round of fixtures that saw four teams enter the final game of the season on 32 points after 29 matches.
Any one of Dalian Yifeng, Chongqing Lifan, Tianjin Teda and Changchun Yatai could have gone down and each had their fate in their own hands, but nowhere more so than in Dalian where it was effectively a relegation play-off.
Bernd Schuster’s hosts won 2-0, with goals in either half from Duvier Riascos and Yannick Carrasco, the second a fine individual effort.
The result meant the home team knew they were safe at the final whistle but the visitors had a nervy wait on the pitch to find out if other results had gone their way.
If teams are on equal points in the Chinese Super League they are separated by their head-to-head records.
Dalian had the biggest incentive to win as they had losing records to Tianjin Teda and Changchun Yatai – even the 2-0 win on Sunday left them down on aggregate against Changchun who had beaten them 3-0 in August.
As it was, that did not factor in keeping Dalian up but three of the four relegation candidates finished on 32 points and Changchun went down on account of having the worst results against their rivals.
Changchun and Chongqing had traded 2-1 wins this season, leaving them even. Tianjin Teda had the advantage over Changchun after a 1-0 win on the road in May coupled with a draw.
They had an injury-time Frank Acheampong goal to thank for rescuing that 3-3 tie in October, a point and result that ultimately proved decisive.
Chongqing and Teda had drawn 1-1 three games ago, while Chongqing won 2-1 on their visit north in July.
— DalianYifangFC/大连一方足球俱乐部 (@DalianYFC) 11 November 2018
A draw in Dalian would have kept both teams up on 33 points, as would a draw in Tianjin where Teda played runners-up Guangzhou Evergrande
Changchun must have been hopeful at half-time, when the game in Tianjin was 1-1 and the visitors were down to 10 men.
If it stayed like that Changchun would stay up.
After head-to-head results, it is the reserve team league placement that comes into play rather than the traditional method of goal difference.
This meant a reprieve for Chongqing Lifan, who were worse off than Changhcun in the reserve team table.
So Tianjin Teda have farcically fended off relegation by losing 5-1 at home to 10-man Guangzhou Evergrande, a result that made their goal difference worse than Changchun’s but had no bearing on the table.
Meanwhile, Chongqing Lifan squeaked an escape, despite losing 1-0 to already relegated Guizhou Zhicheng.
Both results meant that the 2007 champions of China, a team that played in the AFC Champions League as recently as 2010, will be in League One next season.
CSL 2018 Round 30: Dalian Yifang 2:0 Changchun Yatai. On the brink of relegation, without 3 their best domestic players, Bernd Schuster's team won via a header of Duvier Riascos and a spectacular solo-goal of Yannick Carrasco. Changchun, with Odion Ighalo absent, got relegated. pic.twitter.com/nCv6h1Kj6W
— Titan Sports Plus (@titan_plus) 11 November 2018
Changchun will wonder if it could have been different on Sunday if they could have called on top scorer Odion Ighalo. The Nigeria striker was injured in midweek against Tianjin Quanjian.
He finishes the campaign on 21 goals in 28 games, the second top scorer in the league to Shanghai SIPG’s Wu Lei on 27, and accounts for nearly half of his side’s 45 league goals.
That is a troubling statistic and one that has contributed to their relegation. Ighalo may have played his last game for the side, with the 29-year-old still capable of a return to European football where he starred with English Premier League side Watford, Udinese in Italy’s Serie A and at Granada in Spain’s top tier.
The Chinese Super League 2018 season is over. We were the best home team. The best away team. We had the number 1 goal scorer. Had the number 1 assist maker. Conceded fewest goals. Scored the second highest goals. I think it’s fair we can call us: Champions of China 2018 #SIPG pic.twitter.com/E4dh6Va4L4
— Mads Davidsen (@MadsRDavidsen) 11 November 2018
Higher up the table, the final day had a small impact on the final standings. Promoted side Beijing Renhe finished in the top half (never mind having a worse goal difference than relegated Changchun). Their draw with Guangzhou R&F also meant the southern China side finished above Tianjin Quanjian, who beat champions Shanghai SIPG 3-2.
As for this season, there is only the FA Cup final left.
It is an encounter that is increasingly impossible to predict. Third-placed Shandong Luneng should be favourites to beat fourth-place Beijing Guoan – who finished the season with a 2-1 loss to Hebei China Fortune in neighbouring Langfang – based on the league table.
However, Shandong are also being hamstrung by their relative success this season.
Three of their starting eleven – Wu Xinghan, Han Yuze and Liu Junshuai – were among the 44 players called up last week for a national training camp starting on November 17.
The date of the first leg of the cup final is the 25th but with the training camp open-ended – it is expected to include another round of military training and continue through the off-season – this is not ideal preparation.
The second leg is in Jinan on Friday November 30 and then Chinese football is done until the New Year, Chinese Football Association brainwaves not permitting.