Facing local neighbours Shanghai East Asia, Shanghai Shenhua played out an occasionally eventful 0-0 pre-season friendly that saw manager, Jean Tigana, experiment with a 4-5-1 formation that had Nicolas Anelka as the lone striker for the first sixty minutes.
As friendly games go, this was a nice way of introducing many of the new arrivals to the Shenhua faithful. Moises looked comfortable with what little work he had to deal with whilst Mario Bozic, who won’t be a stranger to referee’s notebooks over the course of the season, gave his team some toughness in the middle of midfield. Anelka was committed and certainly looks like he has come to Shanghai to do more than pick up a cheque, whilst the barrel chested Mathieu Manset has got cult hero potential if he continues to knock around unsuspecting Chinese defenders.
Despite a line-up designed to dominate the middle-third of the pitch, Shenhua were decidedly underwhelming as East Asia unsettled their hosts with their pace and directness, and Wang Dalei had to be on his toes to deal with the constant barrage of hopeful long-range shoots coming his way. Dai Lin wasn’t helping matters either and the defender looked extremely nervous throughout the first half, most notably when he left an over hit pass for Wang to collect, only to rush back and boot the ball back into the air despite there being no East Asia player within ten yards of the area.
At the other end of the pitch, Anelka, the star attraction for the crowd, wasn’t getting as many touches he would have hoped for but when he did get the ball, the Frenchman’s quality was obvious, and he was drifting past East Asia players with relative ease.
Indeed, as the game went on, Shenhua began to control the game a lot more and Cao became increasingly influential, either by exploiting the space on the right hand side of the pitch or drifting into the center and linking up with Anelka.
With halftime looming, Shenhua were in control of the game and probably should have taken the lead when Cao burst down the right flank before whipping in a cross that an onrushing Jiang Kun fired into the side netting.
When the two teams returned after the break, Shenhua continued to dominate proceedings and quickly fashioned another excellent chance after Jiang played a crisp one-two with Cao before spraying the ball into Anelka’s path just outside the area. The Frenchman, taking a touch before getting off his shot, forced an excellent save from East Asia’s keeper, and the home side were now playing with a real swagger.
Seeing as this was a game between two Shanghai teams, there was obviously going to be a derby feeling to proceedings and Bozic managed to get himself a yellow card on the fifty-five minute mark, when he clattered into one of East Asia’s numerous South American players.
With half an hour to go, Tigana decided that Anelka had had enough fun for the day and swapped one Frenchman for another in the hulking form of Mathieu Manset. The on-loan Reading striker quickly endeared himself to fans in the north stand with his brute strength and enthusiasm, and suddenly the fans had forgotten about ‘Le Sulk’ and were more interested in ‘Le Tank’.
There was still time for another terrible blooper from Dai but overall, Shenhua looked assured at the back as Moises and Yu Tao snuffed out any chances before East Asia could make the most of them. Fan Lingjiang could have won it in at the death but his shot was well saved by the East Asia keeper and in the end, the hosts had to settle for a draw against a plucky but limited opposition