After a rough start to the season Jiangsu Sainty have created a nice little winning streak these past few weeks. The 1-0 victory over Chengdu last Saturday evening marked the third home win in a row for Jiangsu, improving their record to 3-6-1 (W-L-D). Winning three of your first ten matches is nothing to gloat about, but this miniature home win streak has let Jiangsu put some distance between themselves and the bottom feeders. Another added bonus of continually winning at home is that the Jiangsu fans are happy campers for the time being.
Rain had been falling all Saturday, but by the time the fans started to trickle into the stadium the rain let up making it another wonderful evening for football in Nanjing. For some reason the crowd appeared smaller than usual, although there were a group of about 20 Chengdu fans that made the trip. Chengdu to Nanjing is quite the road trip, but then again every away game, with the possible exception for Shaanxi, is a massive road trip for Chengdu supporters.
The Jiangsu lineup had one notable absence as well as a pleasantly surprising addition. Central defender Eleílson did not suit up for the match, most likely due to injury. Seeing as the Brazilian defender had played in every minute of every match so far this season his absence was troubling. On the attacking side I was excited to see that Bruce Djite had earned his first start of the season. The Australian striker had previously only come on as a substitute this season.
The opening minutes of the match saw the home side come out of the gates full of energy. Jiangsu earned three corner kicks within the first 10 minutes but were unable to produce any solid chances on goal. The first shot at a goal came in the eighth minute when Chengdu’s Li Gang (not that Li Gang) hit a volley from 25 yards out, but it was sent directly towards the Jiangsu keeper who punched the ball away with ease.
22 minutes in saw another good opportunity for the away team as Chengdu strung together a series of nifty passes that led to a shot on goal by midfielder Peng Xinli that hit the post. Luckily for Jiangsu the ball bounced straight to a defender who was able to clear it. Jiangsu’s Ji Xiang had a similar shot on goal in the 41st minute but his attempt went wide by a matter of inches.
During Jiangsu matches I take notes on a small notepad to use as an aid when i write these reports. Sometimes I can’t remember exactly why I wrote something down. For example just after the start of the second half I wrote that Bruce Djite was electrifying. I don’t quite remember what he exactly did to earn that praise, but it probably involved some ankle-breaking jukes and Usain Bolt like runs down the flanks. This praise was justified in the 54th minute as a speedy pass from Jiangsu defender Ren Hang found its way to Djite who turned and fired a shot into the corner of the goal. Chengdu appealed for a handball but it was clear Djite used his chest to control the ball and not is arm. Scoring his second goal of the season has hopefully cemented Djite’s place in the starting lineup. The thought of him being matched up with Romanian striker Cristian Dănălache week after week is a beautiful thing.
Five minutes later Chengdu earned a dangerously close free kick, but Australian Adam Kwasnik drove the ball straight into the wall. The 69th minute saw Jiangsu’s Sun Ke hit a beautiful curling shot that was headed for the upper right hand corner of the goal but Chungdu keeper Wang Haoyi showed he’s no slouch and fully extended his body to punch the ball away. Immediately afterwards Sun Ke was subbed out as Tan Si came on to replace him.
Being up 1-0 in the final minutes of the match is always stressful, but luckily for the Jiangsu fans Chengdu was unable to create any worthy attacks on goal. The thousands of fans that made the short journey to Nanjing Olympic Sports Center let out a collective cheer as the ref blew the final whistle. This marked the third win in a row at home for Jiangsu Sainty, and while none of them came from the league’s top teams, 9-points at home is still 9-points at home. Now if only the team could find a way to sucure at least a single point on the road..
I’d like to give a final shout out to the Chengdu fans that made the trip. I couldn’t hear them from where I was standing but they appeared to be giving their full-90, jumping around and waving flags like there’s no tomorrow. It is fans like these, the ones of travel 1800 miles roundtrip for a weekend game, that give Chinese Super League matches such a great atmosphere.