Shanghai East Asia remain in pole position in China League 1 after dismantling a Hunan Xiangtao side that huffed and puffed but ultimately couldn’t trouble their hosts in any significant way.
The first half was a cagey affair and both sides took in turns to enjoy large spells of possession without really doing anything with it. That said, Wu Lei will feel he could have done better when Luis Carlos Cabezas’ through-ball carved open the Hunan back line only for the East Asia midfielder to fire his effort into the chest of the onrushing Wang Haoyi.
Having given the fans something to get excited about, Wu then contrived to miss another good chance a couple of minutes later when an innocuous looking cross from the flanks caught the Hunan defence off guard, only for the East Asia player to blaze his first time effort over the bar from twelve yards.
However, the home side weren’t going to be denied for much longer and a noticeably more direct East Asia side returned after the break and dominated the first ten minutes before taking the lead when a completely unmarked Wang Shenchao headed home Lu Wenjun’s corner.
It was a painfully simple goal that underlined how slack Hunan’s defending had been, and the lack of footballing knowhow was just as apparent on the other side of the pitch as the guests struggled to fashion any sort of meaningful chance for the remainder of the game.
Things would then get worse for Hunan with ten minutes left when Erick Norales was caught in possession on the halfway line by Chen Zijie, who promptly stole the ball from the Honduran and sprinted a full thirty yards into the visitor’s penalty box before he was chopped down by the defender for a penalty.
Following farcical scenes in which Wang Qing attempted to stop Norales’ inevitable early visit to the showers by literally trying to stop the referee pulling out the red card from his pocket, Wu tucked away the penalty in nonchalant fashion (bottom right, sent the keeper the wrong way) to double the score.
There was still time for more high drama, starting with Didier Njewel’s impressively indignant reaction after being substituted with only a handful of seconds remaining. The Cameroonian, who had come on at the halftime break, then stormed off the pitch, seemingly spurning a high-five from a team-mate in the process and sitting on the bench, arms folded and looking furious.
A bizarre final ten minutes was then topped off by Astor Henriquez going down clutching his face after jumping for a header against the smaller, lighter Chen. It was a shameful act of theatrics that was clearly an attempt to get someone sent off and a vocal East Asia crowd let both the Honduran and the referee who actually gave a free kick for the ‘ foul’- know what they thought of the debacle.
It would prove to be the last act of a terse, gritty game that ensured East Asia continue to lead the league as the CL1 goes into its sixth week. Hunan didn’t exactly play like a team with promotion aspirations but East Asia did well to nullify a physical outfit and will now hope to keep the winning streak alive when they travel to the capital to play Beijing Baxy.
In other scores from around CL1, both of last season’s relegated sides from the Chinese Super League, Chengdu Blades and Shenzhen Ruby were victors in tricky ties. Chengdu beat Beijing Institute of Technology 1-0 to moves up to second place whilst Phillipe Trousier’s team got their second successive win after beating Hohhot Dongjin 3-0.