The crowd was certainly the man of the match on the day, Guoan filled the stand given to them and welcomed the Shenhua fans (to their own stadium) with the chant of “Anhui Shenhua.” The announced attendance was over 4,000, though even if that included all the police, media, and grounds crew, it was still stretching it.
It didn’t really matter, the fans didn’t miss much, especially in the first half which was devoid of action. Unfortunate indeed because Shenhua were using Qiu Shengjiong in goal. Qiu is constantly emoting, reacting at all the action happening in front of him, surprising for someone who has to be the fattest non-golfer athlete I’ve ever seen. Seriously, dude needs to lay off the shengjian or whatever he’s stuffing in his mouth.
Guoan did well to shut down the Shenhua attack and push forward, but it was to no avail. Despite the midfield trio of Walter Martinez, playing in his final game for the club, Wang Xiaolong, and Piao Cheng outclassing the opposition, they failed to create very much. The best moment of the half was by far the least threatening of them all, a Dai Lin penalty kick that was only dangerous to fans sitting in the last rows.
The second half started much like the first, with neither team able to create much in the way of chances, though the home side were gifted one when Francois Sene’s clearance hit a Guoan defender and fell to a Shenhua player. With Guoan failing to get a goal in the first 20 minutes, they decided that instead of pushing for the win, they’d give some minutes to their younger players, with Martinez and then in quick succession Piao being taken off and later Joel Griffiths, the lone striker substituted for a midfielder. The youngsters, Yang Yun and Zhang Xizhe did okay in their time on the pitch, but the quality of Guoan’s side obviously dropped off and Shenhua started creating more chances. That said, Guoan still produced two of the best chances of the half, Wang Changqing went on a mazy run and was in good position, but slipped on the wet surface and flubbed the shot and later, a Lei Tenglong header off a corner kick was just off target.
In the end it was Shenhua who were celebrating after a nice cross and horrible defending found Jiang Kun left all alone on the back post to thread a shot past Yang Zhi in a loss that, if it would have mattered, would hurt even more than last year’s disappointing 3-2 defeat at Hongkou. Hopefully it wasn’t Guoan’s last trip to Hongkou.
Once again Guoan was struck down by a late goal, a trend that has become all too common this year. While Jamie Pacheco’s changes should be enough to assure him of manager of the year (despite being disciplined multiple times), one of the things we’ll hopefully see out of the side next year is more fight at the end. A tough way to end an otherwise great season.
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