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Winning start for Shenhua

Fluent passing, solid defending and a winning performance were the unexpected hallmarks of Shanghai Shenhua’s 2-0 victory over Shenzhen in their first Chinese Super League fixture of the season at Hong Kou stadium last night.

Shenhua normally make somewhat sluggish starts to their championship campaigns but if last night’s showing was anything to go by, 2008 might just be their year.

Most impressive of all were the performances of new foreign signings Erick Scott and Emil Martinez. The central american pair looked much fitter, livlier and competant than the usual standard of foreign player Shenhua bring in (Carsten Jancker anyone?). Their flicks, tricks and crisp passing gave the home side the edge in this clash between the 2003 and 2004 league champions.

Even better for Shenhua however was the fact that it was Chinese players who got their names on the scoresheet – Chinese international defender Du Wei with a header from close range after 20 minutes, and midfielder Yu Tao with a low drive from the right hand side of the box seven minutes after half time.

It wasn’t all plain sailing however and young keeper Wang Dalei almost had to pick the ball out of his own net following a wayward backpass which rolled past the post with a Shenzhen attacker in hot persuit. Not long after a looping header towards the Shenhua goal bounced ontop of the bar and came back into play before being cleared for a corner.

Mao Jianqing, Shenhua’s rising star and a player Shanghaiist continues to tip to go onto greater things, had a lovely swerving shot saved by the Shenzhen keeper mid way through the second half, and Erick Scott squandered a great chance when he connected with a clever lay off but screwed his shot wide. Shenhua were comfortable winners however in a moderately entertaining game which could have seen a few more goals for either side.

Despite the new Metro line 8 station outside the stadium making it easier than ever for fan’s to get the game, the 35,000 seater stadium was only a third full. That may change however should the home side keep up this level of performance.

Shenhua’s next home match is on next Saturday against Tianjin, at 7.45pm

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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