Gulp! Burp! Argh! @)#(*)@(*$#)(#)IQ$!
That’s how I’m feeling right now after a very rough weekend of celebrating and drinking first with Guoan supporters, then with the “Blue Devils” and finally tonight with a few Brisbane supporters, who took it easy on me. That’s why it took so long for this report to finally get posted. That and a massive hangover/headache.
Let’s get straight to the match, which for once lived up to all the hype. It certainly was a big night at Worker’s Stadium, the China derby is enough of a story in itself, but it was also the first match back for Joel Griffiths, and Nicolas Anelka was ready to make his Chinese Super League debut. The crowd of over 51,000 was in full voice and created a very special atmosphere, a wonderful advertisement for Chinese football.
After struggling in its opening two matches, it seemed as if the return to Worker’s Stadium settled the squad, who played considerably better than they had in the previous two matches. However, in the first half, Shenhua still looked the better side as Anelka’s quality came through at times, putting pressure on the Guoan defense. With the defense depleted due to injuries, Xu Yunlong and youngster Yu Yang had their hands full, but Darko Matic tried to stay back and lend a hand as well. Shenhua had the better of the early chances, including a well taken free kick that hit the post followed by Feng Renliang missing a sitter.
That’s how the game goes sometimes, if Feng would have scored, it would have taken the crowd out of the match and probably led to a very different result. However, Guoan went on the attack, Wang Xiaolong almost scored with a header that was just off the mark. They’d be the first to get on the board after Shenhua’s Brazilian defender made a horrible mistake heading the ball back without looking, Piao Cheng was there to knock it in and open his Chinese Super League scoring account just before the end of the first half.
In the second half, it was more Guoan, doubling their score in the 55th minute. This time Wang Xiaolong returned the favor to Manu, making a brilliant run and crossing it to the back post, where Manu was waiting to head in his first goal with Guoan. Five minutes later, Shenhua would get on the board when Yu Yang handled the ball in the box and
Joel Judas Griffiths took the penalty with ease. Within moments, Shenhua would have the equalizer, scored off a counter attack started by Wang Dalei. A horrible back pass by Manu found Griffiths, who passed it to Anelka for the easiest goal he’ll score in the Chinese Super League. Hou Sen was caught out and Anelka only had to tap it in on an open net.
Guoan almost got back in the lead just a few minutes later off a corner kick, Xu Yunlong was taken down in the box, but the referee didn’t give the capital side the penalty they deserved. It was all going to be okay. Mao Jianqing came on and immediately changed the match, setting up chance after chance. His hatred for Shenhua, and especially Zhu Jun, runs deep, dating back to 2007 when his mother was sick and he went to Zhu to borrow money, only to be rejected time after time. Since then, almost every time Mao goes up against Shenhua, he scores and this night was to be no different. A Xu Liang free kick is how it would happen, Mao got on the other end of it and headed it past Wang Dalei in the 82nd minute.
It was an important, emotional victory for Guoan, the first time they’ve scored a late minute goal to win under Pacheco. While I’m not overly confident about what lies ahead, the game showed that things aren’t that bad and Guoan does have a lot of potential. It also was big for the fans, no matter how things work out this season, this win over Shanghai is sure to be a highlight.
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