Shanghai Shenhua crashed to a 2-0 away defeat in rain-soaked Changchun on Saturday night as new manager Sergio Batista’s reign got off to a disappointing start at rainy Jingkai Stadium.
The appointment of the Argentinian a couple of weeks back meant that for the first time in over two months, Shenhua actually had a proper manager on the bench, following the utterly bizarre Anelka / Ibenge coaching experiment.
But although the coach was new, there was nothing different about Shenhua’s line-up. Injuries again kept out Anelka and Griffthis, leaving the visitors looking threadbare upfront.
The match kicked off in torrential rain, and Shenhua did nothing to brighten the skies for their small knot of travelling fans by getting off to the worst start possible. Brazilian striker Weldon scored for Changchun with a header from a corner in the 9th minute.
With Manset up front on his own, Shenhua looked out of ideas right from the start about how to respond, and Changchun had the better chances, with long-range shooting and passing the order of the day in the soaking conditions.
Absolutely nothing worthy of comment happened for the rest of the first half, as reflected in the highlights reel – someone at Sina Sports must have been very bored, seeing fit to include a replay of a Changchun shot which must have flown at least five metres over the bar.
The second half continued in similar vein, with Shenhua’s chances very very limited because the team lacked a competent striker. Changchun were looking more threatening, coming close with a number of chances mostly from crosses and set-pieces. It was no surprise when they added to their tally seven minutes from time with a well taken strike from the edge of the box by Zhang Wenzhao which beat Wang Dalei at his near post.
And so the match finished 2-0 to the home side and Shenhua failed to score for the seventh time in 13 matches.
The result was not exactly a shock looking at the form book going into the game, Changchun are in fifth place and amongst the chasing pack behind Guangzhou.
Many things must be going through the mind of new coach Batista, amongst them surely a desire to see Didier Drogba on his team sheet instead of Mathieu Manset as quickly as possible.
Below: Shenhua’s Blue Devil ultras make a 1,000 km round trip to Changchun to cheer their team on, bare-chested in torrential rain.
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