A shocking miss from youngster Fan Lingjiang was responsible for Shanghai Shenhua’s seventh defeat of the season away to Henan Construction on Saturday night.
Shenhua continued their non-scoring ways, this time away from home, but Mario Bozic was unlucky to be denied by the crossbar in the closing stages.
Of the 11 players who started the match and the three substitutes who come on, only Nicolas Anelka, Mario Bozic and Yu Tao were over 23 years old. But despite such an inexperienced line-up, Shenhua had a good first half, carving out a few key chances and a few half chances in the opening 30 minutes. Cao Yunding coming closest with a header after just three minutes following a nice move with Song Boxuan and Nicolas Anelka.
Henan were not without their opportunities, but Shenhua make the most of the first half, with Bozic coming close just after the half hour mark with a long-range shot which whistled just short of the post.
Shenhua’s best chance came in the 41st minute when a ball from the right-wing found Fan Lingjiang unmarked in the middle of the box. Despite having enough time to take out a cigar, light it up and take a draw on it before picking his spot, the youngster somehow managed to blast the ball over the bar in an appalling miss.
So to the second half then, and the game turned. The home side almost scored just after halftime when Xu Yang’s cross found Zambian striker Christopher Katongo, but his low diving header was expertly kept out by Wang Dalei. Moments later, Bozic again was denied from long-range, as Shenhua appeared to have adopted a shoot-on-sight policy.
But their lack of an on-form marksman was punished by Henan in the 55th minute. Midfielder Zhang Li rolled a ball casually past four Shenhua defenders to unmarked dangerman Katongo. He was left with a simple task of smashing the ball into the net from close range as Shenhua’s recent defensive good work went to pieces.
Henan had a few other half-chances as Shenhua lost confidence and their game fell apart. However there was time for one last moment of angst as another long-range shot from Bozic crashed against the crossbar and bounced down in front of the goal line before being cleared.
So Shenhua fall to 14th in the table, a mere three points from rock bottom. The Hongkou faithful must surely be hoping Drogba, not to mention a midfielder who can tackle and pass the ball, arrive in Shanghai very very soon indeed.
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