Off-pitch goings-on again overshadowed play as Shanghai Shenhua notched up their second win of the season, in a fine 3-1 victory against Wuhan.
Returning favourite Saul Martinez scored a well-taken effort on his second debut for the club, along with a brace from Uruguayan Sergio Blanco, but the relationship between the fans and the Shenhua boardroom reached a new low during this April Fools Day fixture.
Not content with firing cult figure Wu Jinggui, boss of Shenhua before its controversial merger with rivals Shanghai United, the new board added insult to injury earlier this week when Chinese national defender Du Wei was officially relegated to the Shenhua reserve team, for “fitness reasons.” Shanghaiist can tell you that is bullshit.
What is more likely, as the Shanghai Daily speculates, is that Du Wei is being punished for being the ring leader of a group of pre-merger Shenhua players unhappy with the new management setup. The Blue Devils, Shenhua’s biggest fan group, constantly shouted Du Wei’s name, and that of his departed boss Wu Jingui, throughout the whole match. Banners and flags demanding the reinstatement of both were held aloft in the stands.
And not content with that, nor the widespread abuse of new owner Zhu Jun, most of the Blue Devils walked out 15 minutes before the end of the match. Afterwards, new coach Osvaldo Gimenez appeared on local sports channels appealing to the fans to get behind the club and put the merger behind them.
Regardless, Shenhua’s performance was an improvement and the team now lie 4th in the Chinese Super League after four games, three points behind leaders Dalian.
Ground: Hongkou Football Stadium, Hongkou District, Shanghai
Capacity: 35,000 (26,000 for football)
Honours: Chinese top-tier league champions: 1995
Chinese top-tier league runners-up: 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2008
Chinese FA Cup winners: 1998
Chinese FA Cup runners up: 1995, 1997, 2015