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Shaanxi 1-0 Shenhua: Salmeron’s fruitless return

Not an awful lot to say about this game. A fairly poor performance from Shenhua, particularly in the second half. Shaanxi is a tough place to go – a large and hostile crowd follow the ‘northwest wolves” through thick and thin. Shaanxi have had two sides over the years, first Shaaxi Guoli, who disappeared in the early 2000s after their fans rioted one too many times, and now Shaaxi Chanba, a club which began life as Shanghai Pudong in 1995, and was later renamed Inter Shanghai before relocating to Xian in 2006. Both these teams have enjoyed large and vociferous support come what may, despite never having gotten near championship success.

Shenhua started with Argentinian striker Luis Salermon back in the starting XI after being out for a month with a foot injury. He partnered Duvier Riascos upfront in a 4-4-2 lineup, in contrast to Riascos being the lone striker in a 4-5-1 formations in recent games.

The tactical shuffle seemed not to work in the Hongkou side’s favour. Shenhua are a team who plays their best football on the ground. In previous games, Riascos, being a fast and skillful running striker, meant that the team relied on passing the ball into space for either Riascos in the middle, or Feng Renliang on the wing, to run into. With Salmeron back in the side, the team looked as if they didn’t know weather to aim for the Argentinian target man, or thread it through for Riascos.

However, it Shaanxi took just 10 minutes to score, Serbian defender Miloš Bajalica climbing above he Shenhua defense to head in from a corner. Shenhua had a few half-chances in the first half, including some interplay in the opponents box which saw midfielder Cao Yunding pass to Fengren Liang when he should have shot himself. The attack came to nothing.

The second half was more of the same. The more physical Shaanxi side muscled Shenhua off the ball more often than not. The boys in blue’s only real chance came when Riascos found himself one-on-one with the keeper after a good long pass forward. He rounded the goalie, but his final shot was too weak and gave the defender plenty of time to clear. That was about it in terms of worthwhile action, and Shaanxi claimed a 1-0 victory.

Losing away in Xian is no disgrace and Shenhua lost out narrowly in the end. After 8 games played, Shenhua are in 6th place, four points off leaders Guangzhou. Plenty to play for – Shenhua’s next game is against Chengdu Blades on Saturday night, 7.45pm kickoff.

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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