Despite a commanding performance for much of the match, Shanghai Shenhua threw away a two-goal lead against an inferior Dalian Aerbin at Hongkou stadium on Sunday night.
It was a frustrating outcome for Shenhua fans to accept, with the team having put in one of its best performances of the year up until Aerbin scored.
The game marked new manager Sergio Batista’s first game in charge at home. He had the good fortune to be able to bring Anelka and Feng Renliang back into the side after injury. However, despite the new coach, the game of musical chairs continued as always with the Shenhua positional line up. Centre back Wang Lin found himself on the right of midfield when the music stopped, and Yu Tao, a defensive midfielder, at left back.
Shenhua started brightly and had the better of the opening exchanges. It took just 13 minutes for the home side to open the scoring, when Wang Lin sent an inviting cross into the centre of the penalty box. Feng Renliang, not known for his aerial ability, got his head on the end of it to direct the ball low into the net. The goal settled Shenhua who started to control the game.
Next up was a nice through ball from Wu Xi to Anelka in the 18th minute. The former Chelsea man managed to get on the end of it, but his unselfish low pass towards the on-rushing Shenhua attack was cut out by Aerbin keeper Yu Ziqian.
Arebin didn’t have their first real chance until the 20th minute when Yu Dabao somehow managed to get the break of the ball past two defenders in the box and unleash a shot at point-blank range. Wang Dalei, Shenhua’s keeper, was on hand to make a great stop though.
In the 27th minute, Shenhua’s lack of strength and depth positionally speaking was exposed, when a great Anelka ball to the far post found Wang Lin. But the centre half, playing in the right-wing position, completely fluffed the effort when a goal looked likely.
Shenhua had the ball in the net in the 34th minute when a Bozic freekick was headed in by defender Moises, but the goal was ruled out due to a foul on the keeper – a dubious decision at best.
In the second half Wang Lin’s long ball back up the field put Anelka clear, but he hadn’t bothered to run back into an onside position yet, so the resultant foul on him by the keeper was rendered academic by the linesman’s offside flag.
Aerbin were limited to long shots and didn’t look that dangerous despite having more possession in the second half. Going by the flow of the game, it wasn’t a surprise when Feng Renliang scored his second of the night when a lobbed ball forward was deftly controlled by the winger, then despatched into the net with an early shot after turning inside two defenders. It was a very well taken goal from a player who looked to be approaching his old excellence following a boost of confidence.
At this point, it very much looked as if Shenhua were going to score a third and close the game as a contest. However, it wasn’t to be.
With the game seemingly entering its trundling stages, Arebin tore up the script with a hopeful shot at best. However Zhou Tong’s shot flew right into the net from the very corner of the box to put Aerbin right back into the game with a little over 15 minutes remaining.
The goal was against the run of play, and Shenhua basically went to pieces after conceeding the goal. Lacking any solid leadership or determination to control the game or score another goal, it was was almost like watching the Shenhua of previous seasons – totally unable to kill off inferior opponents, an absolutely gutless and appallingly disgusting lack of determination or fight and poor defending.
Accordingly, it was no surprise when Utaka scored with just minutes remaining, a nice back heel fooled the Shenhua back line, and the attacker managed to squeeze a shot in past a desperate Wang Dalei.
That was about it, Shenhua of course didn’t bother even trying to make an effort to equalize and the game finished a draw.
This was the second time this season Shenhua had turned a victor into a draw in the closing stages of a match, karma you might say after last years four last-minute victories. But no matter what, signing Drogba won’t help when the team are gutless and unable to secure a win against a team that really are nowhere near Shenhua’s ability.
Gutless and spineless.
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