Changchun Yatai emerged as the new champions of China PR as they rounded off their fairy tale run to Super League title with a 4-1 defeat of Shenzhen in the final round of matches on Wednesday.
Hot off their 4-0 victory over Wuhan Guanggu last Saturday, which lifted them to the summit, above Beijing Guoan by a solitary point, Changchun entered the last game with their destiny in their own hands. Playing away in Shenzhen, Changchun made a dream start with Honduran import Elvis Scott edging them in front after just two minutes.
Kamate Dramank restored parity for the hosts in the 25th minute, but their joy lasted for only three minutes as Wang Wanpeng restored Changchun's advantage after a goalmouth scramble. Dazaghi doubled their advantage 16 minutes later, before Scott scored his 12th goal of the season just before the interval to seal a memorable victory.
The win ensured that Changchun, playing in only their second season in the top flight since a 2005 promotion, maintained their one-point lead over Beijing, whose 1-0 reverse of defending champions Shandong Luneng was not enough to return more than another second-placed finish.
While Changchun's ground-breaking success surprised even their own supporters, coach Gao Hongbo pointed out that the foundation was not laid overnight. "Changchun Yatai have spared no efforts in developing the club's youth throughout its 11 years and the backbone of the current team comes from the production line," the 41-year-old told FIFA.com.
He was particularly delighted with the team's foreign striking duo of Dazaghi and Scott, who bagged nearly half of Yatai's 48 goals during the campaign. "It proved that we made the right selections in terms of imported players as they did a very good job."
Changchun became the fifth team to win the trophy in the 14-year existence of the Chinese Super League, and the title race was particularly interesting with the fight going down to the wire. The battle was between Yatai, Beijing and holders Shandong Luneng after 25 rounds, but it was coach Gao Hongbo's charges who took the upper hand when they beat arch-rivals Beijing. A 2-2 tie against Shanghai Shenhua and an unexpected 3-2 loss to Henan Jianye did, however, see Yatai surrender the lead to Beijing with only two matches remaining.
"At the crucial moment I was clear that we must focus on the performances rather than the results," coach Gao said. "We could have lost either game if we think had thought too much about the outcome because that would have only added the pressure on us."
Fortunately for their faithful, the team kept their cool in the last two matches to win both en route to glory.
Such a competitive end to the season reignited interest and passion among supporters across the country. Fans flocked to the stadiums and tickets were sold out, a scene rarely witnessed in the recent years.
For Gao, such signs suggest well not only for the club, but also for the nation's football: "The national team had a disappointing Asian Cup this year but the league success came a timely boost for Chinese football. Now everyone is aware that the national teams can only improve with the league developing well."