Nanchang Hengyuan did just enough in a rather bland encounter on Saturday afternoon with Shanghai Shenhua to maintain their Chinese Super League membership for another year, consigning Chengdu Blades to relegation in the process.
With just one game left of the season, Chengdu can still catch Nanchang on 29 points, but in the Chinese Super League head-to-head records between the two sides are used as tie-breakers. Nanchang beat Chengdu 1-0 home and away, so its back to the China League for Chengdu Blades after just one season back in the Chinese Super League.
The game itself was a dull affair as the scoreline suggests, with Shenhua fielding several youth players due to Jiang Kun and Yu Tao being suspended. The first real chance of the match fell to Nanchang’s Brazilian forward Paulo Roberto who, chasing a nice through ball, blasted the ball over the bar when it looked easier to get a shot on target. Shenhua’s marauding fullback Wu Xi had a chance to open the scoring for the visitors when the ball fell kindly to him in the box, but he scooped his effort wide.
Wu Xi again was in the thick of the action, breaking through the Nanchang defence an putting an inviting ball accross the goal which no Shenhua players could get on the end of. That was it for the first half.
In the second half, Brazilian forward Camilo tested Wang Dalei with a long range freekick, but the Shenhua custodian was equal to the task and caught the ball neatly. Minutes later, Shenhua had a chance to score from a Cao Yun Ding corner, but despite a mini-scramble, Nanchang were able to clear the ball upfield to Paulo Roberto who sprinted up the park and very nearly scored for Nanchang on the break.
With just five minutes remaining, a Nanchang forward broke through the Shenhua midfield and evaded a few challenges, before getting a shot on target which squirmed under Wang Dalei. However, Shenhua’s promising defender Qiu Tianyi managed to get back in time and save the day with an excellent clearance off the line, which turned out to be probably the most exciting play of the match – this is if you ignore an amazing incident in the closing stages which saw Shenhua coach Dražen Besek angrily invade the pitch to drag the injury-faking Shenhua youngster Liu Junnan to his feet – more on that elsewhere on .
The match however finished 0-0, a result which probably suited both teams just fine, it enabled Nanchang to stave off the threat of relegation for another year, and allowed Shenhua to avoid a ninth consecutive defeat on the road.
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