Given that this past week had two Jiangsu Sainty matches as well as my birthday sandwiched in-between, I was either drunk or hungover for the majority of these past seven days, hence the late and combined match report. While the first match against Tianjin ended in a highly disappointing 2-2 draw, Jiangsu came back four days later to post an impressive 2-0 win over local rival Hangzhou.
Jiangsu 2-2 Tianjin: A Roller Coaster Finish
Going into last Saturdays match Jiangsu Sainty sat one point behind Tianjin Teda meaning the result would be one of great importance in the race for the final Asian Champions League spot. Being the holiday weekend that it was the fans packed the stadium. The official attendance was only 15,000 but it appeared to be the largest crowd of the season from where I was sitting.
Tianjin almost went up 1-0 in the sixth minute when Yu Daobao shot a free kick just wide. It appeared that Yu and teammate Wu Wei’an had almost blotched the kick when Wu almost tripped over the ball as Yu tapped it to him. Somehow Yu managed to get the shot off and it didn’t miss by much.
The large crowd got riled up in the early goings of the match when an apparent handball in the box by a Tianjin player went uncalled. Jiangsu striker Cristian Dănălache soon made the fans forget the handball with a world class goal in the 10th minute of play. The ball was swung in to the middle of the box where the Romanian was laying in wait. Dănălache managed to rise up and head the ball up and over the keeper and into the top corner of the net. I can’t imagine a goal keeper in the world who could have saved that shot. The 1-0 score would last until halftime with Tianjin doing little in the way of threatening Jiangsu’s lead.
It wasn’t until the 66th minute when Tianjin would level things up with a goal by Marius Bilaşco. The Romanian striker headed in a cross off a free kick that beat Jiangsu keeper Deng Xiao Fei. It was the first goal given up at home since July 14th for Jiangsu.
The following twenty minutes were painful to watch for a Jiangsu supporter. It was the first time since April that the team had lost the lead at home and it appeared that the players didn’t know how to react. Tianjin had the better of the play and in the closing minutes of the match I twas thinking to myself we would be lucky to walk away with a draw.
Just as that thought crossed my mind the dynamic duo of Aleksandar Jevtić and Cristian Dănălache found themselves on a breakaway. Jevtić was able to pass the ball to an open Dănălache who made no mistake in blasting the ball past the Tianjin goalie for a 2-1 lead in the 87th minute. Right after the goal was scored I was thinking to myself how it would be a crime for Jiangsu to take the full three points given the run of play the last 20-minutes.
Apparently I shouldn’t have such negative thoughts because two minutes later Tianjin tied it up off a goal by Song Chong-Gug. It was a dagger in the heart for Jiangsu, but it was a fair result for Tianjin who controlled the run of play for the vast majority of the second half. The draw marked the end of a seven-match home winning streak that dated back to May 15th.
The result took the wind out of the sails of Jiangsu in their push for a Asian Champions League spot. The match against Hangzhou the following Wednesday had now been turned into a must win.
Jiangsu 2-0 Hangzhou: Right Back in the Mix of Things
Midweek matches normally don’t draw the largest crowds. This past Wednesday that factor was multiplied tenfold when the Jiangsu Sainty-Hangzhou Greentown match was moved from the Nanjing Olympic Sports Stadium to the Jiangning Sports Center, a.k.a. the boonies. The reason for the change of location was that the following Saturday Jolin Tsai was having a concert in Nanjing making the stadium unusable.
Most Jiangsu fans have probably never been to the Jiangning Sports Center, and I for one have never even heard of the place. It took a 45-minute subway ride from the city center followed by a 20-minute walk just to reach the place. The stadium itself was actually a nice change from the mammoth Olympic Sports Stadium with its 60,000 plus capacity. The lower level of the stands only had roughly 15 rows of seats meaning that level was completely packed while the upper level was virtually empty. A healthy amount of Hangzhou supports gave the match a lively atmosphere.
The first 30-minutes of the match saw both teams trade punches but neither was able to truly test the opposing keeper. In the 30th minute Jiangsu striker Sun Ke would give the home side the lead with a strike from the top of the box. A poor clearance by a Hangzhou defender sent the ball directly towards Sun who managed to control the ball and fire away for his second goal of the season.
Just two minutes later Jiangsu would double their lead when Aleksandar Jevtić beat the offside’s trap and chipped the ball over the Hangzhou keeper. The replay showed that Jevtić was right in line with the last man back, but if anything he could have possibly been a hair offside. Regardless the goal stood and Jiangsu had a healthy 2-0 lead.
The second half was a back and forth battle between the two sides, but Hangzhou had several wonderful opportunities to cut into their deficit but Jiangsu keeper Deng Xiao Fei made several highlight reel saves to keep Hangzhou off the score sheet. Funny though how none of his fantastic saves made it into the highlights, but trust me, he was playing out of his mind that night.
The score line would hold up and Jiangsu earned a vital 3-points. Deng Xiao Fei was named man of the match and the crowd chanted his name for several minutes as the team paraded around the track to thank the fans for their support.