Shenhua finally opened their games won account for the season with a solid 2-0 victory over a strangely lacklustre Shenzhen on Friday night.
On a unseasonably hot April evening in the cavernous 80,000 capacity Shanghai Stadium, Shenhua never really looked like losing the match against Phillipe Troussier’s Shenzhen team. He was outwitted by Shenhua coach Xi Zhikang who sent out his side in a 4-5-1 formation, with Argentinan striker Luis Salmeron in attack. In something of a shake-up, Duvier Riascos and Feng Renliang were benched, whilst Song Boxuan, Wang Dalei, Wu Xi, Yu Tao and Dai Lin were injured. If you don’t recognize these names, all you need to know is that they are all first team regulars.
The game ebbed and flowed for the first half hour with little in the way of chances for either side. But in the 32nd minute, a cross into the box from stand-in captain for the night, Jiang Kun, ended up in the net thanks to Shenzhen defender Li Yang’s untimely interception. Shenhua went in the better side at the break thanks to that own goal.
For the second home game in succession, your correspondent missed a Shenhua goal scored at the very beginning of the second half, due to being outside the stadium quaffing a half-time alcoholic beverage. Climbing the stairs to re-enter the stadium, I heard the familiar roar and cursed my luck. I’d missed another 46th minute Luis Salmeron goal. Viewing the online match highlights reveals it was a nicely taken header from Columbian fullback Juan Camilo Angulo’s cross.
The rest of the second half was fairly unremarkable, and as the final whistle blew, there was a real sense of relief that after three Asian Champions League games, and three Chinese Super League games, Shenhua had finally managed to chalk up a victory.
Speaking of the ACL, that arena is where Shenhua will next to battle. They play Sydney FC at Hongkou Stadium on Tuesday night, kickoff 8pm. Both sides badly need a victory to have any chance of progressing past the group stage.
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