Tuesday, 14 February 2017 –
The headline story here is a bunch of part-timers from Newy, coached by rookie boss Ruben Zadkovich, knocked off a team worth upwards of $70 million who play in a league that’s the talk of the football world.
Liaoning have in their ranks Caltex Socceroos James Holland and Robbie Kruse, Zambian international James Chamanga and Nigerian striker Anthony Ujah, who signed from the Bundesliga, among others.
Yes, it was a pre-season friendly at Magic Park, as the Chinese club spend three weeks in the Hunter preparing for an new Chinese Super League season.
But “Zad’s Lads” are also in their pre-season, and finished the game with a host of teenagers on the park.
For the record, Peter Haynes and Scott Pettit were Magic’s scorers in a game that was streamed live.
Zadkovich – a former Jet and Glory favourite – told Michael Parris of the Newcastle Herald his team’s display surprised Liaoning.
“I think they kept a few of their bigger players on the bench and threw them all on second half,” Zadkovich said.
“I had 17-year-old kids out there. I put on nearly all our youth-graders. Dave Ifield started at left back and had a great game.
“We also had some quality on the ball, and I don’t think they were ready for that.
“I had a good chat to Jimmy Holland after the game – he’s a good friend of mine – and he reckons at half-time his boys came in and the coaches and they were asking James what division that we were.”
This all came two weeks after Sydney United 58 were flown by Shanghai Shenhua to China to help them prepare for their clash with Roar in an ACL group qualifier.
The United players were buzzing after this surprise trip, where they were treated like Kings. They lost to Tevez and Co. but what an experience for those who have dreams of playing at a higher level.
It’s football’s trump card – we have international football for national and club levels.
What’s clear is China looks to Australia for help and expertise as they aim to improve their national team stocks over the coming years.
Within that context, our teams – mainly PS4 NPL – will have the chance to improve by facing the likes of Shanghai, Liaoning and others who use Australia’s excellent facilities.
And this is good news for the Hyundai A-League.
A stronger second tier is vital to ensuring our clubs – particularly those in the conversation around expansion – have the highest quality players available to make the step up.
The Westfield FFA Cup helps in bridging that gap but so will facing the likes of Shanghai Shenhua and Liaoning Whowin in pre-season.
Tonight, the Chinese outfit face Edgeworth FC.