Shenhua continued their rapid descent to the abyssal depths of the Chinese Super League last night with their seventh defeat in eight games. Since the start of July, Shenhua have lost every game except for a solitary home 1-1 draw again Liaoning on July 14 – how the Dongbei side must be kicking themselves that they didn’t also take maximum points from that match- because every other Chinese Super League side, be it top-ranked teams or relegation strugglers, have defeated Shenhua in the past two months.
However, let us not get carried away in abject misery just yet, Shenhua did in fact dominate the first half and should have gone in at half time at least one or two goals up. Despite Shenhua’s chronic lack of strength and depth in the squad, they opened the match in a style quite unlike a team which had not won in over eight ganes – they dominated proceedings massively. Shenhua played the slick and attacking brand of football which made them a top 4 side in the first half of the season.
Luis Salmeron come close in a few occasions, following his re-introduction to the side after a knee injury kept him out of the 2-0 defeat away to Shandong. He should have scored in the first half when a bouncing diagonal through ball from Juan Angulo landed in range for him, but it didn’t sit quite properly and he blasted his effort straight at the Changchun keeper. Feng Renliang and Wu Xi came close with long-range efforts, and Dai Lin’s forward ball was headed backwards towards goal by a Changchun defender – his effort hit the bar and bounced out – in other words, inches away from an embarassing own-goal. Later, towards the end of the first half, Feng Renliang shot weakly from the edge of the box when he should have passed to an unmarked Luis Salmeron who was in an excellent scoring position in the six yard box. Half time, 0-0.
Shenhua fans were encouraged by their side’s display in the first half. It was as good a performance as Shenhua had put in all season. But the second half was just eight minutes old when Changchun forward Zhang Wenzhao broke the deadlock with a magnificent shot from outside the area right into the top right corner of the net. This effort was probably Changchun’s only second or third shot on goal all game by that point – it knocked the stuffing out of Shenhua – the confidence of a team who have not won in eight games tends to be easy to destroy, and that is exactly what happened.
Changchun came into the game a lot more, and in the 70th minute, Changchun striker Zhang Wenzhao broke into the box past Wu Xi and Yu Tao, and, heading for the byline, he was tackled by Shenhua keeper Wang Dalei, who just got a foot to the ball first. However, Shenhua knew their luck was out when the referee didn’t see it that way and awarded a penalty. Wang Dong made no mistake from the spot to make it 2-0 to Changchun and that is how it finished.
It was an undeserved defeat. According to Chinese sport site 163.com’s match report, the stats for the match where as follows:
|6||Long range shots||5|
|7||Free kicks in opponents half||8|
|9||Free kicks in own half||12|
|79.1%||Pass completion rate||73.6%|
The stats tell a story by themselves. But at the end of the day, a team can’t blame bad luck alone for taking one point from 24.
Towards the end of the match, the mood on the Blue Devil’s north terrace was muted. That may not seem surprising to those reading who do not regularly attend matches. However, the Blue Devils, along with their counterparts at the opposite end of the stadium, the Blue Boys, follow the way of the ultras very closely indeed – that means non-stop singing and chanting for the entire match. But this time, with ten minutes to go, some fans sat down and the terrace was in virtual silence. This is extremely unusual and a sign of how bad things are at Hongkou Stadium right now.
On the final whistle, the Shenhua players approached the north terrace for their ritual bow infront of the fans. However, they were met with a cacophany of hissing and booing, and were shooed away by the fans, as this TV broadcast shows. Your correspondent has only seen this once before in six years of watching Shenhua. The Hongkou side have now gone a record eight games without a win and lost four on the trot, and look like having their worst season since 2004 when they finished 10th out of 12 teams, only one point off bottom.
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