Shanghai Shenhua’s season is all but over after crashing out of the CFA cup semi-final away to Tianjin, in a game marred by two harsh sendings-off, and an ugly bottle-throwing incident.
Midfielders Yu Tao and Jiang Jiajun were both red carded in very questionable incidents which upset the balance of what was a fairly dull game which only came alive in the final 25 minutes with two late Tianjin goals.
The game started out a fairly sedate pace. Shenhua lined up with the master of disaster, Qiu Shenjiong, in goals. Indeed, it didn’t take him long to demonstrate why he is the Chinese Super League’s most error-prone keeper, spilling an easy ball from his hands which had been intercepted by Dai Lin in the opening stages. This gifted Tianjin a great chance which they were unable to capitalize upon.
The rest of the first half offered little in the way of concrete chances for either side, even if Tianjin had the better of play. Shenhua were playing without much purpose or confidence, as if they knew fine well they weren’t going to make it to the CFA cup final, never mind grab their sole remaining chance to play in next year’s Asian Champions League. Any lingering thoughts of this were abruptly smashed in the 40th minute when Shenhua’s veteran midfielder Yu Tao was sent off in very dubious circumstances.
With a Tianjin forward Marius Bilaşco on the ground, Yu moved in to take the ball away from him, but stood on the Romanian’s thigh as he moved away. It may have been clumsy, but it was not intentional or dangerous play and it was certainly never a red card. The referee didn’t see it that way however, and off Yu Tao went. Half-time 0-0.
In the second half Tianjin had most of the play but again created few chances, save for a great shot from Wang Xinxin which stung Qiu Shenjiong’s buttery palms. But in the 64th minute, Tinjian’s Bai Xuefeng broke the deadlock with a great finish, after Shenhua’s back four made a total hash of trying to prevent the ball going out for a corner.
Later there was an ugly incident which saw Shenhua defender Wang Lin go down after being struck on the head by a bottle thrown from the crowd. The spectators in that part of the stadium cheered idiotically and one could be seen standing up and waving his arms around as if to take credit for the hit. The game was paused for some time as the referee consulted some match officials pitchside. Of course, there was no replay of the incident during the match, and nor is it featured in the video highlights above. During the game the camera panned to Shenhua coach Drazen Besek who could be seen shaking his head and wagging his finger in disapproval at the moronic act. Thankfully, the bottle must have been plastic since Wang Lin got up before long and continued play.
In the 81st minute, the game as a contest was rendered completely over when Marius Bilaşco of Tianjin was again involved in the red carding of a Shenhua player. Jiang Jianjun tangled with the Romainian, who went to ground after the challenge. The referee sent Jiang off for a second bookable offence, looking at the replay several times over does not make it clear as to why Jiang had to recieve his marching orders, it appeared to be at best, another harsh red card.
With Shenhua reduced to nine men and zero hope of salvaging anything from the match, Tianjin’s Wang Xinxin picked up the ball near the edge of the box and unleashed a great finish into the top left-hand corner of the net to bring to end the match, Shenhua’s CFA cup involvement, ACL qualification hopes, and effectively, Shenhua’s season.
Bizarre refereeing aside, the men from Hongkou played very poorly yet again and never looked like winning – this was to be the last game of the year they had anything to play for in and they appeared to know it already. Shenhua fan’s hopes of a Beijing-Shanghai China derby CFA cup final were dashed on two fronts, as Shandong beat Guoan 4-3 on penalties in the other semi-final.
With Shenhua practically safe from relegation, and only games gainst Dalian at home, Nanchang away and finally Beijing at home, defeat in the CFA cup semi marks a somewhat miserable competitive end to what may possibly go down as the worst season in Shanghai Shenhua’s proud history.