Wuhan survive China relegation decider but still in danger of drop

Shanghai (AFP) –


Jean Evrard Kouassi hit a late winner as Wuhan Zall, the football team from ground zero of the coronavirus pandemic, survived a do-or-die relegation scrap in the Chinese Super League on Wednesday.

However, they are still in grave danger of going down and must now face a two-legged tie against Zhejiang Energy Greentown, who finished second in China's second division, to stay in the CSL.

Ivorian winger Kouassi was Wuhan's hero, hitting a brace in a 2-1 win over Shijiazhuang Ever Bright to condemn them to the drop.

Wuhan Zall, who were locked out of the central Chinese city when the coronavirus emerged there late last year, should have taken the lead after only five minutes in front of a sparse crowd in Dalian but Brazilian Leo Baptistao headed against the bar.

Wuhan deservedly went ahead in the 15th minute when the 26-year-old Kouassi lashed in from close range.

However, Shijiazhuang grew into the game and made it 1-1 in the 54th minute when Brazilian Matheus Leite Nascimento stabbed in.

In a nervy game of few chances, Kouassi missed from another close-range rebound before making no mistake with four minutes left of normal time. The first leg had ended in a 0-0 stalemate.

The CSL title will be decided on Thursday when Fabio Cannavaro's reigning champions Guangzhou Evergrande face Jiangsu Suning in the second leg of the championship final. The first leg was 0-0.

The CSL started in July, five months late and in two secure "bubbles" in Dalian and Suzhou, because of the coronavirus.