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Shenhua are Shanghai top dogs

DSCF7104.JPGShanghai Shenhua rocked the house in Xuhui last night to take the honours in an action-packed Shanghai soccer derby by beating city rivals Inter, 2-1, to maintain second place in the China Super League.

A respectable attendance of an estimated 20,000 created a tremendous atmosphere, despite the venue being 80,000-seat Shanghai Stadium. Shenhua’s famous Blue Devils supporters club did their best to out-shout their Inter Shanghai counterparts, proving that serious rivalries between the Shanghai clubs are developing. But it was the boys from Hongkou who had most to shout about, however, taking the lead after 24 minutes when Sun Xiang hit the ball on the bounce low into the bottom right-hand corner of the Inter net. Cue the Shenhua crazies to light up some flares and fill the stadium with smoke and a cacophony of noise.

Inter Shanghai’s choirboys had to wait until just after half-time to party, after a goal scored too far away from where your correspondent was standing to describe accurately. Wang Yun did the damage for Inter after 51 minutes, leaving their fans to celebrate in style. Their joy was short-lived however, when a neat header from Xiao Zhanbo put Shenhua back in front just 5 minutes later. Shenhua’s supporters relished being back on top and saw their team gain more confidence and be unlucky not to score a third when an Inter defender headed a goal bound shot off the line, amid gasps from the crowd.

The banter between the two sets of supporters was a key feature of the game, with the Shenhua fans loudly booing their rivals when a Mexican wave reached their section of the stadium, and counting up in Shanghainese for every second that an Inter player lay on the ground injured. The final whistle brought more drumming, chanting and flag waving from the Shenhua crew as star player Du Wei threw his shirt into the crowd — a sign that he is leaving perhaps? Your correspondent spoke with some of the Shenhua fans about their star man’s movements — but no-one seemed to know where or when he will go.

All in all, end-to-end football and a cracking atmosphere.

This post was originally published on Shanghaiist.

A leading international commentator on Chinese football frequently quoted by the world's top media. Offers piercing and resolutely honest insights into the bustling crossroads where football, society, economics and politics meet in contemporary China. Based in Shanghai since 2005, observer of the Chinese game since 2000.

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