What on earth is going on at Hongkou stadium? That is just one of the many questions on the lips of Shanghai Shenhua fans at the moment as the team crashed to its fifth defeat in six games against relegation-threatened Henan on Saturday night.
Your correspondent missed the game due to commitments elsewhere. But word on the terrace was that it was yet another insipid Shenhua showing as the highlights reveal. Henan travelled south to Shanghai deep in the relegation mire on 14 points, just two ahead of the bottom pair, Chengdu and Shenzhen. In other words, a team having a poor season. In any case, normally this would be a fixtue which Shenhua would be expected to win, especially playing at home. But, the Hongkou side have been handing out points like confetti recently, and in particular being a friend to all teams in relegation trouble. So it was perhaps no surprise that they came away from yet another fixture empty-handed.
Shenhua lined up with midfielder Yu Tao in defence again, and second-choice keeper Qiu Shenjiong in goals, replacing the dropped Wang Dalei, whoose poor performances have cost his side several points in the past weeks. Its very unfortunate indeed that Qiu Shenjiong is an even worse keeper than Wang Dalei, his name has featured in many a match report covering a Shenhua defeat. This would be another such instance.
And yet it had begun so well for Shenhua, roving defender Dai Lin scored a cracking long range shot from outside the box, hitting home a clearance from the Henan defence low into the bottom right hand side of the net, via a slight deflection after just eight minutes. Soon after, Juan Angulo almost scored with another long-distance shot, but he hit the bar.
Henan went on the attack, and a typically poorly-positioned Qiu Shenjiong had to scramble back to try to reach a looping Henan header from the middle of the box. He didn’t make it, but fortunately the header went wide. However, it didn’t take Henan long to capitalize on his endless incompetance, when a cross into the box was softly headed towards goal by Brazilian forward Leandro Netto de Macedo, Qiu Shenjiong momentarily appeared to forget that his task was to stop the ball entering his own net, and he fell stupidly to the ground in an absolutely pathetic attempt to save what was an easy shot. Shenhua had surrendered their lead.
Later, Qiu again thrust himself in the spotlight and pulled another party trick from his incredible repertoire of ineptitude by parrying a cross into the path of Netto. But what Qiu lacks in even basic goalkeeping ability, he made up for in sheer good fortune – Netto fluffed his chance. Half time, 1-1.
In the second half, it was only a matter of time before Henan scored another goal – a nice volley by midfielder Xu Yang from the edge of the box should have been kept out by the keeper – except the keeper was Qiu Shenjong so of course, the ball slipped through his hands and into the net for Henan’s second goal. Shenhua had a couple of close chances through Jiang Kun and Feng Renliang, but both to no avail.
In the closing stages, as Shenhua pushed forward, Qiu Shenjiong took centre stage once again by coming up into the Henan box to contest a Shenhua corner. He suceeded on getting his head to the ball, but his effort trundled wide. Perhaps he may wish to consider playing upfront on a permanent basis, he is certainly no goalkeeper.
And with that, the curtain came down on yet another home defeat to a relegation candidate – something that Shenhua may soon become themselves if they don’t arrest this deeply shocking run of bad results.
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