Wuhan Three Towns win Chinese Super League in debut season

Chinese Super League

The 2022 Chinese Super League has officially come to a close, and Wuhan Three Towns have been crowned as champions in their first season in the top tier.

After the significantly altered 2020 and 2021 seasons, the 2022 Chinese Super League somewhat resembled the regular seasons of old. However, the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic has had a big impact in the later stages of the competition.

Clubs briefly reintroduced the home-and-away format, though with lockdown still in effect in a number of cities, including Shanghai, some clubs were forced to host games in alternative venues and in some cases, multiple teams moved to places such as Hainan to limit the impact.

For Wuhan Three Towns, their season progressed surprisingly well and very early on they became one of the favourites for the league title. They battled hard, scored many goals and led the way for a strong group of promoted teams, including Zhejiang (3rd) and Chengdu Rongcheng (5th), who achieved above expectations this season.

Strong Recruitment

A big reason for Three Towns’ success in the Chinese Super League this past season was their strong recruitment during the off-season. With Guangzhou FC releasing a large portion of their first-team squad, Three Towns were able to add some quality to their own squad with Chinese internationals Liu Dianzuo, Gao Zhunyi and He Chao all bolstering the domestic ranks.

Their import signings, however, truly helped tip the team over the top. With Ademilson and Marcão already on the books and having played a key role in the team’s China League One success a year earlier, Pedro Morilla brought in fellow Brazilians Davidson and Wallace to strengthen the team at both ends of the pitch.

Alongside them was Romanian international forward Nicolae Stanciu. Together, Marcão, Davidson, Ademilson and Stanciu combined for 66 of the club’s 91 registered (88 actual) goals in 2022, with those four players accounting for over two-thirds of the entire team.

Having such a strong foundation set the team on the right course from the outset, with the top-tier debutants never dropping below second place and only slipping out of the top spot twice throughout the entire campaign.

Closely Fought Chinese Super League

Despite the strong season, where it looked as if there would be no challenge to Three Towns’ claim to the title, there was the possibility of the team falling at the final hurdle and allowing Shandong Taishan to snatch back-to-back league titles of their own.

In fact, despite Three Towns’ dominance, Shandong finished the season level on points and were unfortunate to lose out on goal difference, with Wuhan having registered five more goals than their nearest challenger.

From Round 8 of the competition, Shandong remained hot on Wuhan’s heels and was the only team to supplant them in the top spot from then on. The two sides, however, could not be separated in league play as they battled out two 1-1 draws between them, allowing Three Towns to maintain their standing and hold on until the very end.

The two sides will meet again, however, in the Chinese FA Cup quarter-finals as Three Towns look to secure a shock domestic double while Shandong hopes to end the season with some silverware.

Unfortunate Ending

The exciting ending didn’t come about through ordinary play, however. The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, which has continued to affect everyday life in China, played a significant role in a number of results at season’s end.

In fact, both Shandong and Wuhan’s final games of the season were forfeited by their opponents and handed each team automatic 3-0 victories, meaning neither were able to actually play and try to edge victory.

Some on social media called for the two teams to play a ‘cup final’ of sorts to officially decide the league winners, but ultimately the CFA decided to award the league to Wuhan in order to end the season at an appropriate time and due to both teams having their games forfeited.

Had one team received an automatic victory and the other forced to play, perhaps this would have changed how things played out or how the governing body responded. Alas, the title was decided by automatic results and the focus for both teams will now be on the future rather than the past.