Numerous commentators and fans have raised suspicions of match-fixing following Liaoning Whowin’s 3-1 defeat on Monday to Tianjin Teda in the Chinese Super League, Global Times reports.
Wednesday’s match was supposed to be a home match for Tianjin, but both clubs agreed to play in the newly built Huludao Olympic Games Sports Center – which is around 420 kilometers away from Tianjin – as the opening game of the stadium in Northeast China’s Liaoning Province.
But on Sunday, to the fans’ surprise, Liaoning removed all their foreign players from the lineup except Uzbek Shavkat Mullajanov, who turned out to be an unused substitute. Only one player from Tianjin played in both matches, with the club switching out 10 players between the two starting lineups.
Tianjin’s win saw them go level with Changchun Yatai in the league table with 12 points as they pulled away from the relegation zone.
In a midweek Chinese Football Association (CFA) Cup match, Liaoning had crushed Tianjin 5-0, with all goals coming from foreign players, Brazilian Edu and Argentina’s Pablo Brandan.
Zhao Junzhe, Liaoning’s captain, defended the team’s decision to use an all-Chinese squad in Monday’s fixture as an “all-out attempt to win the game”.
Ma Lin, head coach of Liaoning, when asked before the match if there was something “shady” going on between the two sides, said, “I’m not clear on that. Right now we’re just preparing for the match. Of course if the club has some requirements, we’ll follow them.”
At the news conference following the defeat, Ma could only say “congratulations on Tianjin Teda’s victory” before leaving the room.
Wild East Football suggests that Tianjin, which has a history of match-fixing, may have reached an agreement with their opponents to “[trade] league cup advancement for crucial league points”.
Corruption has plagued the Chinese game for years. Prior to the start of the current CSL season Shanghai Shenhua were stripped of their 2003 title and 33 people, including two former Chinese football heads, were banned for life from football.
The CFA has said that it will investigate Tianjin-Liaoning match.