Uli Stielike recently announced his latest roster for the upcoming matches against Uzbekistan and New Zealand, and three of the five central defenders picked currently play their club matches in China. Jang Hyun Soo (Guangzhou R&F), Kim Ju Young (Shanghai SIPG), and Kim Young Gwon (Guangzhou Evergrande) were all chosen for the national team’s two friendlies at the end of the month, but Jang Hyun Soo will have to be replaced due to a fractured right toe. Jang picked up the injury in practice the morning after Guangzhou lost 1-0 to Seongnam in the AFC Champions League and is expected to be out for approximately two months. Ulsan’s Jeong Dong Ho, who spent the 2012 season on loan with Chinese club Hangzhou Greentown, was named to the stand-by list and is most likely to be the one to replace Jang in the upcoming friendlies.
The unfortunate injury of Jang Hyun Soo should at the very least ensure that Park Jong Woo will consistently feature in both league and continental matches. R&F head coach Cosmin Contra previously stated that “all five foreigners are very good, and for me it is a very difficult decision to choose only four.” While both Jang and Park were included in Guangzhou’s initial AFC Champions League squad which is locked until the conclusion of the round of 16, the Chinese Super League only allows for four foreigners in a team’s 18-man matchday roster, one of whom must be an Asian. In the opening game of league action, Park Jong Woo was left out of the squad as Contra said he wasn’t feeling so well physically as Guangzhou R&F defeated Hangzhou Greentown 2-1. Further research suggests that his red card in the final league fixture from last season might have been the reason for his omission. Jang, who usually plays in central defense, was pushed up to defensive midfield partially to cover for Park and partially to add more height overall to deal with Hangzhou’s threat on set pieces.
Park returned to the starting lineup a week later as Guangzhou lost 1-0 to Shanghai Shenhua, but Jang had to watch the game from the bench as Jin Yangyang earned a second straight start alongside the team captain in central defense. The 22-year-old Jin, who started against Hangzhou while Jang was pushed up to replace Park, has performed above expectations early on in the season and has been called up to the Chinese national team for the upcoming friendlies in March. Even prior to Jang’s injury, there has been chatter amongst fans that the club should consider selling Jang and using the non-Asian foreign player spot to make a higher profile signing. Meanwhile, Park attempted an Olimpico in the second half which over-curled and ended up harmlessly over the goal. Watch his attempt at the 2:30 mark of this video.
In Champions League action just a few days ago, both Jang and Park were in the starting lineup as Guangzhou R&F had a shock 1-0 home loss to Seongnam FC. Jang’s quick-fire yellow cards late in the game will mean that he will miss the next continental game once he returns from injury, likely in either leg of the round of 16 in May or the quarter-finals in August and September. Jang picked up the yellow cards for dissent and bumping into the referee after he was not pleased at the referee’s decision to award a foul to Park Jong Woo for taking down Kim Dong Sub. Guangzhou has three points after three games and another loss would all but make it impossible for them to advance to the knockout stages.
Over on the other side of Guangzhou, on the periphery it looks as if Kim Young Gwon isn’t in the best form, but personally I think it’s more of Kim being the only defender in form, as he’s often left outnumbered by the attacking players with the rest of the backline being decimated with injuries and the replacements being caught out of position way too much. Evergrande needed a 92nd minute goal in the opening week to clinch a 2-1 victory over Cho Yong Hyung’s newly promoted Shijiazhuang Ever Bright, and fared no better in the following week with another 2-1 victory over Chongqing Lifan, another newcomer to the Chinese Super League. Kim, along with the team captain, was rested for the Chongqing game in preparation for the upcoming midweek ACL game against Hwang Seok Ho and the Kashima Antlers. The Asian Champions League game was another disappointing defensive effort from a team that is far from firing on all cylinders, as they narrowly beat the Japanese side 4-3. It was hard to fault Kim on any particular goal, but as a defender Marcello Lippi said had the quality to play for Manchester United, he must step up and lead by example. However, his Guangzhou Evergrande are one of five teams with six points after two rounds of league fixtures, alongside Tim Cahill’s Shanghai Shenhua, Ha Dae Sung’s Beijing Guoan, Kim Ju Young’s Shanghai SIPG, and Kim Yoo Jin’s Liaoning Whowin.
Cho Yong Hyung, lining up at left center back in a very conservative 5-3-2 formation, played the full 90 minutes and was partially at fault on the first goal. Overly aggressive with sliding tackles (even in his own penalty area) for most of the game, he backed off Elkeson into empty space which allowed the reigning MVP to provide the assist for Goulart to tie the game. He wasn’t particularly dominant in the air, but he provided a steady presence on the back line for his newly promoted Shijiazhuang Ever Bright. Cho’s team didn’t play this past weekend as their away game in Changchun (approximately 700km north of Seoul) was postponed indefinitely due to heavy snow accumulation on the pitch and freezing conditions in and around the stadium. They will get back to action this weekend when they host Kim Yoo Jin’s Liaoning Whowin.
Having finished in tenth place for three straight years in the 16-team Chinese Super League, Kim Yoo Jin’s Liaoning Whowin have been one of the surprise packages early on this season. Liaoning started the season with a 1-0 away victory over the 2013 FA Cup champions Guizhou Renhe and followed it up this past weekend with a 3-2 home victory over Shandong Luneng, the reigning FA Cup champions. Kim didn’t make the 18-man roster on the opening weekend, but played an instrumental part in his team’s victory this past weekend coming off the bench as an 88th minute substitute. Liaoning was awarded a late free kick in the 92nd minute and Kim Yoo Jin’s flick-on header was on target, but the Shandong goalkeeper could not stop Derick Ogbu from poaching the rebound into the back of the net and seal the last-minute victory.
At the other end of the league table is Lim You Hwan’s Shanghai Shenxin, losing two consecutive Shanghai derbies to start the season (6-2 to Shenhua and 2-0 to SIPG). Late in the first half of the first game, with Shenxin already down 1-0, Lim leapt up to clear a cross but unfortunately it went backwards into his own net for an own goal. In the 55th minute, Paulo Henrique scored his second goal of the game, using his individual skill to shake off Lim with his back to goal and turn around to shoot, giving Shenhua a 4-1 lead. Lim was again at least partially responsible for the last goal of the match as Stoppila Sunzu outleapt Lim and nodded the ball into the net in second half stoppage time to finish the 6-2 rout. He played much better the following week against Kim Ju Young’s Shanghai SIPG.
Kim Ju Young has been pretty solid in the first two games as his side has only conceded one goal so far, and the only thing I was able to spot so far was a weak clearance in one game which lead to a dangerous shot by the opposition that was eventually blocked. With Shi Ke and Yang Boyu out injured, his partner in central defense for the first two games has been rookie He Guan. However, Shi Ke should be playing to the left of Kim once he returns from injury. Kim had this to say about Shi Ke in a February interview. “When I asked him about his age before, I was very surprised when he told me he was born in 1993. When I found out he played on the Chinese Olympic team, I thought back to how I played when I was his age. I think that if we have more time to gel, we can form a pretty good partnership in central defense. Because we are both right-footed and prefer to play on the right side, I sincerely appreciate the fact that he was willing to move to the left side for me.” We look forward to continued good performances from Kim, as they continue league action this weekend at home against Park Jong Woo and the injured Jang Hyun Soo’s Guangzhou R&F.
Ha Dae Sung made his return from injury a few days ago as Beijing Guoan continued their perfection in the Champions League with a 2-0 victory over Urawa Red Diamonds. Ha had a nice cross from open play to ex-Seoul forward Dejan to create a scoring chance, but that was ruled offside. In his month-long absence, Beijing had won four straight games, scoring six without conceding any. Victories over Chongqing (3-0) and Henan (1-0) in the league and Brisbane (1-0), Suwon (1-0), and Urawa (2-0) in Asia have propelled them to the top of both the league scoreboard and their group in continental play. Ha also had this to say after catching up with his friends after Suwon’s 1-0 loss to Beijing two weeks ago in the AFC Champions League. “The Suwon players felt extremely shocked at the atmosphere of the Workers’ Stadium. They knew that the game would be very well attended, but what they didn’t know was there would be so many supporters and the magnitude of the noise they generated. I feel very honoured I can play in this stadium.”
Jung In Whan was a late transfer to Henan Jianye from Jeonbuk Hyundai, and with Spanish-Filipino Javier Patino already on the roster, it meant that Henan were one of three CSL teams to have more than one Asian foreigner on their roster. While five foreigners are allowed on the team roster, league rules stipulate that only four foreigners may be on the field at one time, one of which must be an Asian. This creates some interesting situations for teams with more than one Asian foreigner (Guangzhou R&F and Liaoning Whowin). Jung only had seconds of playing time in the opening weekend as Henan defeated Tianjin Teda 3-1, as he was a late stoppage time substitute for Ivo. Jung got the start this past weekend in a five-man defensive line alongside fellow foreigner Danish Edigeison Gomes as Henan narrowly lost to Beijing Guoan 1-0 in the Chinese capital. Jung had a key defensive block within the 6-yard box in the 72nd minute when the game was still scoreless, but Dejan scored a header minutes later from point-blank range. Henan could pick up their first points this weekend as they host newly promoted Chongqing Lifan. Meanwhile, Jung has got to like Henan’s new kits this season, as their red jersey with blue shorts looks quite similar to the Korean national team jerseys.
Park Ju Sung had a good debut with Guizhou Renhe two weeks ago despite a 1-0 loss to Liaoning, making a key defensive block after getting up quickly off the ground. He followed it up with a not so great performance against Jiangsu Sainty, as Guizhou lost 2-0 on the road, being either caught badly out of position numerous times or ball-watching the rare times he was in a good position. Guizhou will be hosting Lim You Hwan and his Shanghai Shenxin this weekend.
Down in the second-tier China League One, birthday boy Kim Seung Yong played 90 minutes for Qingdao Hainiu in a 0-0 draw with Hunan Billows while Ha Tae Gyun, playing 89 minutes, and his Yanbian Changbaishan posted a 1-0 road victory against Jiangxi Liansheng in pouring conditions as the second division kicked off this past weekend. Kim’s Hainiu will host Qingdao Jonoon in a city derby this weekend while Ha’s Yanbian will visit Hebei China Fortune.