A priceless away win was the outcome of Shanghai Shenhua’s visit to Jinzhou stadium as they scored a late goal to beat Dalian Shide 1-0, in a match where the commentator blasted the “laowai” (foreigner) ref for not awarding a penalty to the home side in the first half.
In a deathly dull game on a rain-soaked pitch for the second year running, Shenhua winger Feng Renliang scored his first goal of the season after connecting with a Jiang Kun corner ten minutes from time, as Shenhua’s mystery manager plot thickened.
Once again, the identity of the person responsible for picking the team was unclear. Was it Tigana, who apparently is still officially Shenhua’s manager when he is not engaged in legalities with the club over his imminent departure. Was it Anelka, he who was promoted to the coaching team the other week and apparently is caretaker manager, and tweeted after the match of his “first victory as Shenhua coach?” Or was the man calling the shots the mysterious Jean-Florent Ikwange Ibenge, the former DR. Congo national team manager, who was spotted lurking on the sidelines during the game with Tigana’s translator?
The truth is that the team sheet was signed by a Shenhua backroom official since Anelka lacks the FIFA qualifications, and Ibenge can’t officially take up the management position until Tigana formally leaves Shenhua. So the dog’s dinner management situation persisted for another match, even as Anelka said during a press conference before the game that he felt the pitch was of dire quality and would impinge upon Shenhua’s game. One can’t help but wonder if Anelka could see the irony of the “cash rich” Chinese Super League not being able to splash out on maintaining decent playing surfaces.
Anyway, Shenhua were weakened by injury, with Cao Yunding, Joel Griffiths and Song Boxuan all out. Wang Fei and Zheng Kaimu returned to the starting XI, lining up in a 4-5-1 formation beside Jiang Kun, Yu Tao and Bozic in midfield. In yet another positional audition, Anelka appeared to be the lone frontman.
Dalian started brightly and James Chamanga, who was given a presentation before the game for making his 100th appearance for the home side, could have scored in the 8th minute when a shot bounced off Shenhua keeper Wang Dawei’s legs just past the foot of the Zambian international.
Shenhua’s chances were few as the players struggled on the terrible surface, Feng Renliang had a chance when a cleared ball was pass straight back into the Dalian box but his shot was saved. Then Dalian had a very clear penalty appeal turned down by the foreign ref, something which the commentator on Sina’s highlight reel took umbrage to. Dai Lin brought down Dalian’s Martin Kamburov with a clumsy challenge.
Shortly after the one minute mark in the highlights video, the commentator, a Dalian-supporting professional working for one of China’s biggest sport portals, yells “Penalty! That isn’t a penalty? Not even any reaction from him, not a penalty? Then what’s a penalty? This laowai really is a laowai, you laowai you really are a laowai. That’s not a penalty, what’s a penalty? This laowai referee has always been a laowai, look! An obvious penalty!”
For those outside of China, laowai is a respectful term for a foreigner. However some thin-skinned individuals do take offence to it, and in this case its clear the commentator uses it in a less than respectful way. During his outburst of crazed shrieking, is linking the fact the referee is foreign with his incompetence. Clearly, even if the decision appears to be wrong, the fact the referee is foreign has nothing to do with it.
The term laowai could also be slang for waihang which means layman or amateur, so the commentator could also be shouting “laowai you really are an amateur”. Unfortunately, foreign referees are brought in to officiate for some Chinese Super League games as an anti-corruption measure. On several occasions in the past, the conduct of high profile Chinese referees has been not so much amateur, but criminal, as they accepted bribes to fix matches.
But back to the game. Dalian’s Lü Peng went on a cracking 40-yard run up the right flank and to the edge of the Shenhua box, but his shot went just wide of the post. That was it in terms of first-half action, and indeed, the second half did not offer much more excitement.
The game did come alive in the 80th minute with Feng’s headed goal from Jiang Kun’s corner, and in the closing stages more action occurred than the rest of the match put together. Wu Xi put in a very dangerous cross in the 82nd minute, but no Shenhua or Dalian contact was made with it and the ball drifted out.
Wu Xi was again in the thick of it, making a goal line clearance to keep his side in front just two minutes later, before Dalian hit the post with just two minutes remaining as Zhao Xuebin somehow managed to get a shot in from a difficult position in the box, but it was not to be and Shenhua held on.
All in all, a far from vintage performance from Shenhua, indeed not really better than in previous outings, but victory was achieved nevertheless and it may turn out to be a confidence-inspiring result.
Shenhua face old foes Shandong Luneng next Saturday night at Hongkou.
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