There are two teams you never want to play on St. Patrick’s Day in China, one is Beijing Guoan and the other is Hangzhou Greentown. With both clubs donning solid green kits you would think the luck of the Irish would will them to victory. Luckily for Jiangsu Sainty last Saturday afternoon the visiting Hangzhou Greentown did not wear their customary green kits and instead wore their white away jersey. The result was a thorough 3-0 victory for Jiangsu in their second Yangtze River Delta Derby match in two weeks.
Despite the weather being wet and gloomy there was a large turnout for the first match in Nanjing Olympic Sports Stadium with 21,432 people in attendance. Last season the club averaged just over 17,000 a match.
Jiangsu manager Dragan Okuka made no changes to the starting lineup from last week agaist Shanghai Shenhua, although it was the changes Okuka made later in the game that had a significant impact on the outcome of the match.
The onset of the match saw Hangzhou take control, with Jiangsu looking a little unorganized. The home side would catch a break in the seventh minute when Aleksandar Jevtić got in behind the defense and went one-on-one with the keeper, only to have his shot sail well wide of the goal. Jevtić appeared as shocked as everybody else in the stadium that his attempt failed to hit the target. Being the homer I am I immediately thought the soggy pitch was to blame for his poor shot. In the 17th minute Hangzhou would suffer the same misfortune when Jeong Dong-Ho was flying down the left flank. Barreling down on the goal Jeong’s shot went well wide and lacked any power whatsoever. The soggy pitch would affect both sides throughout the match.
In the closing seconds of the first half Jiangsu was awarded a free kick which was curled into the box where six-foot-four (1.94 meters) Eleílson headed the ball down into the corner, only to have Hangzhou keeper Jiang Bo make a diving save. That would end the first half as neither team was able to register a goal.
Seven minutes into the second half Jiangsu would break the deadlock with a beautifully taken free kick by captain Lu Bofei. Standing roughly 25-yards out Lu managed to strike the ball up and over the wall and into the top corner of the goal, leaving keeper Jiang Bo helpless.
At the 75-minute mark Okuka would make his first substitution, replacing Ji Xiang with newly acquired youngster Jiang Jiajun. A mere minute after entering the match Jiang would find the back of the net when he headed home a cross from Sun Ke. The ball didn’t have much power behind it but it was lofted up and over the keeper. While the goal won’t be remember for it’s beauty, it will be remembered as Jiang’s first goal for Jiangsu, only a minute into his first appearance.
Hangzhou nearly cut their deficit in half at the 85-miunte mark. A free kick, in almost the same location as Lu Bofei’s earlier in the half, was deflected off the wall, sending Jiangsu keeper Deng Xiaofei the wrong way. Luckily the ball bounced off the cross bar, but a streaking Bari Mamatil seemed destined to send the rebound into the back of the net, but instead he missed the ball completely and eventually it was cleared away, preserving Jiangsu’s two goal lead.
About 30-seconds after Hangzhou’s close call Jiangsu would seal the victory when new foreign player Miljan Mrdaković received a pass from fellow Serbian Jevtić and got the shot off, sending the ball into the opposite corner of the goal. This third and final goal made Okuka look like a real genius. Two off season pick ups, Jiang and Mrdaković, both scored in their first match for Jiangsu, both minutes after they were subbed into the game.
Now I must admit I was hoping for one more final goal from the home side. The reasoning for my greediness is because in 2009 I traveled to Hangzhou to watch Jiangsu play. The first half ended 0-0, only for Hangzhou to score four unanswered goals in the second half. A fourth goal today would have allowed me to forget that awful match, but for now 3-0 will have to do.