Just when Shenhua fans thought their side’s recent form couldn’t get any worse, the team from Hongkou conjured up another eyebrow-raising defeat away to rock-bottom Shenzhen. It was a shocking result in a weekend of assorted surprises, in the shape of Liaoning getting hammered 4-2 by Jiangsu at home, Qingdao beating Hangzhou 3-1, and Dalian losing away to Nanchang 1-0.
If Shanghai had been rather unlucky to take one point from their last 12 coming into this game, then losing 2-0 away to a team which had only won two games all season was perhaps the match which showed the rot had started to set in for Shenhua.
Your correspondent didn’t catch the game live on TV. But according to various sources, Shenhua lined up with only two recognized defenders, and played striker Wen Huyi at right back. Feng Renliang started on the bench. With such a line up, it was hardly surprising that Shenhua struggled, barely registering a shot on goal all match. But, in keeping with their recent dismal form, it was late sucker punches which floored Shenhua again, combined with appalling goalkeeping from out-of-sorts Wang Dalei. In the 79th minute, a cross into the box was met fairly tamely by Huang Fengtao, whose header looked like an easy enough stop for Shenhua keeper Wang. However, just like in the previous match against Henan, Wang let in yet another soft goal.
Less than a minute after the goal, a fracas broke out in the Shenhua half following a strong tackle from Argentinian midfielder Castro. Despite the incident having nothing to do with him whatsoever, and being quite some distance from his goal, Wang Dalei indulged in an act of senseless stupidity by running from his goal to involve himself by pushing and shoving various opposition players, earning a booking in the process. This from a player who had in previous matches been handed the captain’s armband by Shenhua coach Xi Zhikang, in order to encourage him to develop a greater sense of responsibility. This experiment has been a complete failure, Wang Dalei clearly lacks the responsibility and temperament to captain the side.
With Shenhua clearly dispirited after loosing a goal in the closing stages again, there was time for yet more slack play at the back to allow Huang Fengtao to control the ball nicely on his chest, and some how squeeze another shot into the net past Wang Dalei’s inside post to rub salt into Shenhua’s gaping wounds with almost the final kick of the match. The goal consigned Shenhua to a terrible defeat against a team that is not even based in its home stadium this year – Shenzhen are in Huizhou for a season, as yet another Chinese Super League club is booted out of their local community so that their home stadium can be “redecorated”. This time the planned well-in-advance event requiring building work to take up the whole the 7-month long Chinese Super League season is the World Student Games.
Make no mistake, this was an awful result for Shenhua who are now in free-fall. Their current run of one point from the last 15 is historically bad. Qualifying for the Asian Champions League is now beginning to look like a long shot as the Shenhua Summer Syndrome continues.
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