It was another insipid performance on the continental stage for Shenhua, who, already eliminated, played with a somewhat under-strength squad. Shanghaiist attempted to tune in to the match on local TV, but for some reason, most of the first half was not shown. Viewers were instead treated to recent footage of European football with a soft rock track playing in the background, bizarre sentimental lyrics, and a subtitle saying the Shenhua v Sydney match would be on soon.
When coverage of the game did finally begin it seemed like nothing much had been missed, other than a wrongly-rewarded penalty against Shenhua for a handball clearly outside the box. Justice was done though – the resultant spot-kick was crashed against the bar.
The second half got underway and normal service was resumed – Sydney employing muscling tactics, Shenhua going to ground far too easily. Uruguayan midfielder Fernando Correa almost broke the deadlock for Shenhua, but his header was cleared off the line.
One of the highlights of the second half was a bit of argy-bargy with Sydney defender Mark Rudman and several of his opponents as a Shenhua attacker lay on the ground being treated by the physio. It was unclear what the bickering was about, and the injured player was eventually carried off the field. As is so often the case in modern football, he looked barely in need of a stretcher. Rudman took his frustration out with a rasping shot from the edge of the box which tested Shenhua keeper Yang Chen’s leaping abilities to the full.
Indeed, Shenhua boss Osvaldo Giminez told sportal.com.au that he apologised for his players tactics – saying that this was a “habit” of Chinese players and something he hoped to eliminate from their repertoire. Venerable sentiments – but coming from Uruguay, whose team is known for their cheating, Shanghaiist is sceptical – just ask the Australians themselves. As a small boy, Shanghaiist remebers watching Scotland’s 1986 World Cup match against the South American side. We still have nightmares about Jose Batista’s horrific tackle on Gordon Strachan, which was the fastest red card ever seen during the championships
For Sydney though, it was a wasted opportunity to go top of Group E, as leaders Urawa Reds of Japan drew with Persik Kediri 3-3 in the other match. Sydney did more than enough to win but lacked the killer touch and must now beat Urawa on their own patch in Japan to progress to the knock out stage.
Shenhua have just one AFC Champions League game remaining, against Indonesian Champions Persik on May 23, before they can fully concentrate on domestic business.
Qingdao Zhongneng, surprise conquerors of Beijing Guoan last weekend, are Shenhua’s next opponents in the Chinese Super League this Sunday at 7.45pm.