Riding a four-match home win streak the Jiangsu Sainty faithful had high hopes coming into Thursday evenings match against Qingdao. A win would give Jiangsu 19-points which would move them within a point of Qingdao, but more importantly it would increase the ever growing gap between Jiangsu and the bottom tier teams.
Another reason for the home crowd to be exited was the fact that three new Jiangsu players would be making their first appearance in Nanjing. After scoring a goal last week in Beijing striker Aleksandar Jevtić was the most anticipated player of the evening but he was not selected in the starting 11. Defenders Kamoliddin Tadjiev and Liu Yu were also making their first appearance at home for Jiangsu with Tadjiev starting.
As the match got underway both teams took a while to get their gears turning. In the 10th minute Jiangsu striker Tan Si fired the first shot of the game only for it to be deflected out of bounds for a corner kick. On the ensuing corner kick it appeared that a Qingdao player used his arm to guide the ball out of bounds. Jiangsu players couldn’t believe there wasn’t a penalty kick given, but the ref ignored their pleas. The home side earned two more corner kicks immediately following the first corner but were unable to make anything of them.
Neither side was able to apply and pressure for the remainder of the first half. One reason could have been Qingdao’s apparent attempt to kill the rhythm of the game. They were deploying shenanigans that are usually reserved for late in the second half. Players falling down and rolling around in pain only to hope back up a moment later. Other players needing to be taken off the pitch via stretcher, once again only to sprint back on the field moments later. Qingdao’s keeper, Liu Jun, was even giving a yellow card for time wasting.
It appeared that Jiangsu would have to try something new if they were to find the back of the net in the second half. Manager Dragan Okuka did just that when he brought on Jevtić in place of Peruvian midfielder Paolo de la Haza. The crowd let out a loud cheer once they saw the change that had been made. Those that watched the Beijing-Jiangsu match last week were hoping for a repeat performance from the Serbian striker.
We didn’t have to wait long as in the 51st minute Jevtić received a beautiful cross-field pass from Ji Xiang. Jevtić was able to take off down the flank and into the box. At first it appeared that Jevtić would take it right at the keeper and for a split second it looked like he put the ball too far out in front and that Liu Jun would snag it, but at the final moment Jevtić was able to chip the ball over the keeper and to a oncoming Cristian Dănălache who blasted it home. Watching it live I thought it was one of the most beautiful goals I’ve witnessed in person. To see Jevtić and Dănălache teaming up like that so early in their partnership was absolutely amazing from a Jiangsu standpoint.
18-minutes later Jevtić and Dănălache hooked up again, this time with Dănălache feeding the ball to a wide open Jevtić who managed to beat the offside trap. With only the goal keeper standing between him and a 2-0 lead Jevtić easily shot the ball over Liu Jun’s left shoulder. After only playing together for 25-minutes the Eastern European duo had already recorded a goal and assist a piece.
It felt like the game was going to be a whitewash, but only two minutes later Qingdao was able to cut the deficit in half with a fantastic header by Zhu Jianrong off a free kick. Unfortunately I completely missed the goal as I was still in celebration mode with my fellow supporters. The goal really took the home side by surprise. It was the first goal given up by Jiangsu at home since April 30th against Henan. With the shutout streak over at 509-minutes Jiangsu was left to fight for the full three points.
In the 80th minute Dănălache all but sealed it with his second goal of the night. Jevtić had the ball about 25-30 yards out when he passed to Sun Ke who immediately switched the field with a pass to Dănălache who was waiting at the corner of the box. After bringing the ball under control Dănălache’s shot went straight into the corner of the goal to give Jiangsu a 3-1 lead.
In the 87th minute Qingdao’s Feng Zhiquan almost brought the visitors back into the game with a rocket that hit the post. From my standpoint, which was on the opposite side of the stadium, I thought that Jiangsu’s Deng Xiaofei got a foot to block the shot but the replay clearly shows the ball hit the post.
When the final whistle was blown I gave a sigh of relief. Our shutout streak was over, but more importantly the home win streak was alive and well. The loss of Bruce Djite earlier this month made Jiangsu fans question whether the team would be able to maintain their offensive output. If the last two games have shown anything it’s that the Jiangsu front office made the right decision in signing Jevtić.
On a final note, props to the handful of Qingdao supporters that made the trip. They were few in number but full of energy.