The Hongkou curse reared its ugly head once again on Saturday night as Beijing Guoan looked the better side for much of the match, but in the end fell to Shanghai Shenhua 3-1. There was a lot of good the visitors can take from the match, despite the scoreline, but in the end all that matters is the score and that Guoan will be returning home having picked up zero points.
Even before the match, tension between the Guoan travelling faithful, numbering over 300, and Shenhua fans was high. Before the match, when Didier Drogba was introduced to the large Hongkou crowd, Guoan fans responded with chants of “Drogba, f*ck your mother” and “Give us back our Shenhua, Zhu Jun f*ck off.” Why Drogba was presented with a practice jersey instead of Shenhua’s home kit is also a mystery.
Guoan’s only change from the lineup against R&F was taking out Mao Jianqing and using Joffre Guerron in the starting XI. Not playing Mao in his hometown was a bit of a surprise, especially with his record of scoring against Shenhua, but Guerron once again showed his quality on the wing. Despite Guoan controlling the match, Shenhua scored on pretty much their first attack, Feng Renliang playing a good ball into Song Boxuan, who slid and beat Zhou Ting to it, knocking it past Guoan’s keeper. The home side was up 1-0 after only one shot in the 20th minute.
With his side down by one but not lacking in scoring chances, Pacheco decided to bring on Guoan’s newest player, Freddie Kanoute, in the 35th minute, taking off defender Zhang Xinxin. Kanoute made an instant impact and it’s looking like Guoan made a great signing bringing him to the capital.
Despite being down by one, Guoan had all the momentum, especially after Kanoute came on, going into the half and it looked like things would be turned around in the second half, especially after Shao Jiayi and Wang Xiaolong combined to challenge Wang Dalei. However, early on in the half all that momentum was killed when Zhou Ting played a ball to captain Xu Yunlong who momentarily lost his mind and gave the ball to Cao Yunding, who went in all alone on Hou and finished with calm and cool. It wouldn’t be the last time Xu tried gifting Shenhua a goal, though Jiang Kun made a mess of the second giveaway.
The visitors didn’t stop pushing forward and Kanoute, despite playing his first match for the club, looked like he was part of the side for years, playing nice one two passes with Wang Xiaolong and Guerron. After the second Shenhua goal, Guoan had a period of 10 minutes where it was an all out siege on Shenhua’s keeper, with great scoring chances coming from Guerron and most of all Kanoute, with a beautiful bicycle kick that hit the post.
The worst was yet to come, in the 75th minute, Shenhua had a quality buildup topped off by a Wu Xi shot that hit Zhou Ting and fell straight to Moises, who tapped it in to put Shenhua up 3-0. It was yet another stroke of bad luck for Guoan on the night.
Pacheco’s second substitution was an absolute waste, bringing on the utterly worthless Zhang Xizhe, but he brought on Mao Jianqing in the 75th minute, just after the third goal. He had to be kicking himself that he waited so long, because from the moment Mao came on the pitch, he was pushing forward for a goal. He was able to draw a penalty which Wang Xiaolong netted, but it was too little too late.
Guoan showed plenty of weaknesses, especially with the final ball into the box, but they controlled the ball almost 60% of the time and took over double the shots Shenhua did, however of the four shots Shenhua had on target, three were goals. It was a whole lot of bad luck and its yet another Hongkou defeat for Guoan.
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