Last Wednesday afternoon Jiangsu Sainty played host to Nanchang Hengyuan in the final match of the 2011 Chinese Super League season. The thing on the minds of all Jiangsu fans was whether or not their team would finish in the top three of the table and thus qualify them for the 2012 Asian Champions League (ACL). In order for Jiangsu to qualify for the ACL a few things needed to happen. First Jiangsu had to collect the full three points against Nanchang. Seeing as Nanchang sat in 14th place in the league and the week prior had safely risen above the relegation line there didn’t seem to be much motivation for the visiting team.
Regardless of their position in the table, or the fact that the game was in the middle of the week, a good sized group of Nanchang fans were present at the match. While the Jiangsu fans obviously greatly outnumbered them, the stadium had a noticeably smaller crowd than usual. Scheduling the final match of the season on a Wednesday afternoon is something that would only happen in the Chinese Super League, as fellow editor BCheng pointed out.
Early in the match it was clear that the player the Jiangsu defenders had to keep a close eye on was striker Paulo Roberto. The Brazilian was the shortest player on the pitch but he made up for that with pure speed. This worried me as Jiangsu’s defenders are more of the tall physical type and wouldn’t be able to track down the Brazilian speedster on a breakaway.
My worries were put to rest as Jiangsu applied an considerable amount pressure in the early goings. It was in the 13th minute that Jiangsu would get on the board when a cross from Du Wenhui found Aleksandar Jevtić at the back post. It was surprising that the cross made it through all the traffic in the box, but somehow the ball found its way to Jevtić and the Serbian striker recorded his 11th goal of the season.
Throughout the rest of the first half Jiangsu gave little chance for Nanchang to amount any sort of attack. Nanchang’s best opportunity came around the 35th minute when Ye Chongqiu attempted a bicycle kick. While Ye deserves an A for effort, he gets a D- for execution. His shot lacked power and direction and it harmlessly rolled out of bounds.
The opening to the second half saw an onslaught of Jiangsu shots on goal. Cristian Dănălache even managed to get one into the back of the net, but the referee called it back for a foul I must admit I didn’t see. Showing no signs of slowing down Jiangsu continued to attack and it’s no surprise but it was Dănălache and Jevtić who were the ones generating the majority of the offense.
Both Dănălache and Jevtić found themselves in separate situations where it was basically one on one with the keeper, but neither were able to get a good final touch. Both also shot the ball across the goal only to miss by mere inches at the far post. This had to have been the most lopsided 1-0 match I’d ever witnessed. Luckily for Jiangsu Nanchang couldn’t get many shots on goal.
Once the final whistle blew I could tell from the crowds reaction that despite the victory Jiangsu did not qualify for the ACL. Along with a win Jiangsu needed Tianjin to defeat Liaoning but unfortunately Liaoning came out on top 3-1. Even with this news the atmosphere was festive in the stadium as the players marched around the stadium bowing and clapping in a show of appreciation to the fans.