Season 2011 will surely go down as Shenhua’s most bizarre season ever. In contention for the Chinese Super League title up until the half way point of the season, the team then crashed spectacularly, taking just 7 points out of 45 from June to Septemberand breaking all the records they didn’t want to break, as the club was lambasted by fans and the media. At the same time, Shenhua scored stunning 90th minute winning goals in unforgettable games against Shandong and Jiangsu, whilst Luis Salermon topped the Chinese Super League scoring charts, and Feng Renliang, when not being linked with a big money move to Tottenham, and spending a lot of time on the bench, found himself in the Chinese national squad alongside Wu Xi. It all seems a bit out-of-sync.
And last night, Shenhua added to their season of wild contrast, this time throwing away a two-goal lead in the Hu-Hang derby, before Luis Salmeron scored in the 90th minute to make it 3-2 and drive the success-starved Shenhua fans into delerium.
Despite the rather conspicuous swathes of empty seats at Hongkou, the derby atmosphere was particularly electric. The Hu-Hang derby has grown in recent years, from a more brotherly rivalry based on both teams being the only clubs based in the Wu-dialect speaking area of China, to a more intense clash prone to outbreaks of violence between fans. Since Hangzhou stopped Shenhua winning the Chinese Super League in 2008 on the last day of the season, relations between the two sets of fans have worsened considerably, with several Shenhua fans injured during after match fighting last season when Hangzhou hosted Shanghai.The match saw Shenhua take the lead when midfielder Jiang Jiazhun pounced on a loose ball in the box and knock it home to open the scoring in the 21st minute. The game raged on for a while, before Shenhua made it 2. A cross into the box was punched out by a diving Hangzhou keeper Jiang Bo. However, he wasn’t able to pick himself up quickly enough to stop Shenhua fullback Wu Xi from capitalising on a the empty goal by slotting it home from a low angle. Half-time, Shenhua found themselves two goals to the good.
The second half saw Hangzhou take the initative. Former Shenhua midfielder Shen Longyuan broke down the right hand side, and, after Chen Liang’s fresh-air kick attempted clearance, he was left to pass the ball to an unmarked Luis Ramirez, also a former Shenhua player, to slot the ball home from close range. 2-1, and Shenhua fans knew where this game was heading, bearing in mind their awful record against their derby rivals.
What followed afterwards was entirely predictable. In the 56th minute, a ball over the top of the Shenhua back four caught the backline out, and fell to Mao Jianqing, another former Shenhua favourite. He controlled the ball beautifully and finished with applomb to put the large contingent of visiting fans into overdrive. 2-2 – Shenhua had squandered a comfortable lead in a big derby game. Things were not looking good.The home side did get an advantage though in the 76th minute when Hangzhou’s Tang Jiashu was red carded for a ridiculously late tackle on Shenhua centre-half Dai Lin. Could Shenhua make their extra man count?
With just a minute or so of injury timeleft on the clock, it appeared not. But out of nowhere, defender Wang Lin took a long range, low shot, which Luis Salmeron got on the end of to score right at the death, and cue scenes of unrestrained celebration on and off the pitch – Salmeron was mobbed by his team-mates, Shenhua substitute players ran onto the pitch to celebrate, and Salmeron danced a celebratory gig with Eisner Iván Loboa.
The match was summed up by Shenhua fan Andy Summers, a regular on Shenhua’s north terrace.
“If you didn’t go to the game last night then you missed one of the best games in months, a proper local derby feel,” he said, adding, “Probably one of the most passionate displays by the ultras I’ve ever seen, not to mention the score, with Salmeron scoring the winning goal in the 92nd minute to make it 3-2.”
Shenhua fans celebrated enmass underneath the elevated metroline outside Hongkou after the game, (see video clip above, fans dancing after setting off a flare), chanting in Shanghainese, “Shanghai Shenhua lao lv“, which roughly translates as Shenhua are the great cock.
The celebrations continued for quite some time after the match. The festivites were not the only post-game goings-on however – riot police had to be called in to breakup a large fight between rival fans several blocks away from the stadium. More on this later.
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