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First home victory for Shenhua

Shanghai Shenhua finally won their first home game of the CSL 2006 season at the fourth time of asking, prompting scenes of celebration both inside and outside Hongkou Stadium.

Opponents Wuhan Guanggu were swept aside 3-1 as last season’s CSL runners-up finally got into their stride after recording three draws in their opening home matches. Hero for Shenhua was their somewhat ungainly Honduran forward Luis Rameriz who scored a brace, and would have had a hat-trick were it not for an act of incompetent buffonery.

Shenhua left big-name close season signing Li Weifeng on the bench. The home side’s defence did not miss the Chinese international, and Shenhua took control of the game right from the start, in an effort to erase the memory of some rather lethargic displays of late. Ramirez opened the scoring on 13 minutes with a header from close range. Shenhua pressed their oponents in a competent display but could not add to their tally until the second half when a Ramirez cross from the edge of the box found an unmarked Xiao Zhanbao who finished clinically with a well taken first time volley to make it 2-0 after 51 minutes.

Shenhua continued their habit of making it diffcult for themselves however, and a route-one ball up the field somehow found its way through the defence for Wuhan’s Tan Si to poke a bouncing ball into the Shenhua net to make it 2-1.

The Shenhua faithful became a little restless as what appeared to be a solid two-goal led had been halved — memories of the team’s failure to secure victory against Xiamen a few weeks back, despite dominating the game, came flooding back to all of a Shenhua persuasion. Indeed, Shenhua had the ball in the net in the middle of the second half but it was clearly a mile offside and chalked off — it was beginning to look ominous.

With the home crowd eager for their team to put the result beyond doubt with a third goal, an incisive pass from the midfield put Ramieiz through. But despite rounding the keeper, the gangly striker inexplicably neglected to shoot — and ran out of pitch on which to continue his bungling, just as a Wuhan defender reached him in time to conceed a corner. Cue howls of derison from the crowd who had whipped themselves into a frenzy in anticipation of a third goal.

By now the atmosphere was tense and the stadium finally exploded with relief when Ramirez atoned for his previous ineptitude with a well taken goal after being sent down the right hand side of the pitch. He turned inside the Wuhan fullback and struck the ball high into the net from close range to send Hongkou crazy in the 80th minute. The crowd spent the last 10 minutes indulging in all manner of celebrations, including the blue devils doing the Dragon Dance (a kind of rowdy Chinese version of the conga) and a sucession of Mexican waves. The fun didn’t stop at the final whistle — the celebrations spilled out onto the streets below Metro line 3 as flares were set off amid much singing and chanting. Shanghaiist thought it good to see such high-spirited football raucousness — but there is a long way to go until the end of the season.

Shenhua’s next home game is against Tianjin on Wednesday April 19 at Hongkou Stadium, 7:45 pm kickoff.


This post originally appeared 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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