The following match report gives a Shenhua fan’s perspective on the China Derby. To get the view from the North of this huge game, check out Bcheng’s account.
“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme” once said Mark Twain. Shenhua fans would certainly agree with that famous quote this season. Just last weekend the boys in blue were smarting after a humiliating defeat at home to arguably the league’s weakest team for the second year running. And Last night, it was deja vu again as dodgy goalkeeping, spurned chances and some curious officiating led Shenhua to another a heavy defeat at Gongti, just like last year. However, your correspondent’s personal bias aside, this was a very evenly-matched game which the men from Shanghai were arguably the better team, and must have felt gutted to lose 3-0. It was almost a bizarre scoreline which did not reflect the nature of the match at all.
Everyone knows that the China Derby is the biggest game on the calendar in this country. So much so, that the CFA brought in a South Korean referee to oversee the match to help avoid any finger-pointing and suggestions of bribery, or other such shenanigans, should any bizarre decisions were made. Considering the K-League has had its own match-fixing issues recently, South Korea was maybe not the best country to turn to, since the bizarre decisions were many.
Watching on TV, the atmosphere came across as electric. For all the talk of Chinese football being rubbish, more than 50,000 crammed into Gongti to see the Chinese Super League’s showpiece fixture. Among their number was Real Madrid superstar goalkeeper Iker Casillas who is in China to conduct a training camp for young custodians with Chinese national keeper Yang Zhi. Perhaps Shenhua keeper Wang Dalei might like to attend this class – as his fluffed attempt at swatting away a cross led to Guoan’s second goal, scored by midfielder Wang Xiaolong.
Before this, Guoan scored what has to be described as a very good goal when a cross floated over Shenhua defender Dai Lin’s head into the path of Joel Griffiths who made no mistake to put Guoan one up after just ten minutes. Despite the bad start, Shenhua stuck to their short passing game and a cross fell neatly to Luis Salmeron in the six yard box to offer a guilt-edged opportunity, but he shot wide with his left foot when it looked easier to score. This was to sum up Shenhua’s night.
Next up was a fantastic piece of football, which saw several intricate passes from Cao Yunding and Jiang Kun lead to a ball played across the face of the goal. Feng Renliang was waiting to knock it home from the edge of the six yard box, but Guoan keeper Yang Zhi managed to knock it out of his path and the ball was scrambled to safety. If such a passage of play had happened in the EPL, their sycophantic commentators would have masturbated furiously over it.
Beijing’s second goal came somewhat against the run of play in the 29th minute, as described at the top of the report. It was a sucker punch for Shenhua who had probably edged the game up till that point in terms of possession and chances. Half time, despite having the better of the first half, the boys in blue went in 2-0 down.
The second half was only ten minutes old when the game was rendered over as a contest when Guoan won a very soft penalty. Argentian midfielder Facundo Pérez Castro was pressuring Beijing’s Wang Xiaolong who went down due to incidental contact between the players’ feet. Shenhua players looked incredulous at the award, but nevertheless Wang tucked it away to put the result pretty much beyond doubt at 3-0.
There was more action to follow, in the form of a fracas between Shenhua captain for the night Dai Lin and that man again Wang Xiaolong, who had his arms around Dai’s waist. The Shanghai defender took exception to this and turn around and took a swipe at him. This turned into a pushing match, and then Wang shamefully went down clutching his face despite absolutely no contact being made. It was embarrassing to watch, and he and Dai Lin were both red-carded for their efforts.
Shenhua play maker Cao Yunding had a good game, he had a shot from outside the box saved in the first half and should have done better when Jiang Kun laid the ball off at the edge of the box towards the end of the game, but he couldn’t quite get the ball on target. Jiang Kun himself came very close with a free-kick, but Shenhua were all out of luck and didn’t even manage a consolation goal – so a fairly entertaining China derby ended 3-0 to the home side.
The result, coming on the back of last weekend’s disastrous home defeat to lowly Nanchang, completed a miserable few days for Shenhua, who had been enjoying a solid season up to this point and were in the hunt for the championship. But the Hongkou side now fall to 6th in the Chinese Super League table, some 11 points behind big-spenders Guangzhou, and four points off traditional foes Beijing in 2nd place. Shenhua face a real challenge to get their season back on track, and a test of character considering these past two defeats have been more a result of bad luck than a lack of effort.