In extremely unpleasant conditions, Shanghai East Asia and Shenzhen Ruby played out an astounding 3-3 draw on Friday night in front of a relatively large crowd at the Shanghai Stadium. For East Asia, their lead at the top of China League One has taken another hit following the result, whilst for Shenzhen, the draw means the visitors remain in real danger of dropping out of the promotion race.
East Asia started brightly and really should have taken the lead within minutes of the kick-off when Wu Lei fired over the bar from eight yards after latching onto Luis Carlos Cabezas’ teasing cross.
However, the home fans didn’t have to wait long for Wu to open the scoring . Zhen in the starting line-up after his goal in East Asia’s previous game against Chongqing Lifan- picked up the ball just beyond the halfway line before weaving and hurdling his way around several challenges and playing the ball perfectly into the path of the onrushing Wu. The East Asia midfielder seemed to have all the time in the world as he waited for Zhang Xunwei to come out of the the Shenzhen goal before coolly clipping it under the keeper and making it 1-0 to the home side.
Shenzhen then got themselves onto the score sheet two minutes later when Wang Dong was on hand to powerfully head home Benjamin Gavanon’s corner. Not only was the Shenzhen player able to get a free header so close to goal, there was also no East Asia defender on the far post to stop the effort and the simplicity of the goal exposed the poor organisation in the home team’s defence.
Yet it wasn’t just East Asia who were struggling to pick up their men during corner kicks. Five minutes after the equalizer, East Asia retook the lead when Zhen was given a wide open goalmouth to head into after Zhang came rushing out to claim a corner ball only to get caught out of position and the unmarked East Asia striker nodded it over the line to make it 2-1.
Unfortunately for East Asia fans, the goals kept on coming and with twenty minutes played, Gavanon made it two-goals-a-piece when he curled the ball around the wall and towards the left hand corner of the net. The goal was made even more frustrating by the fact that East Asia’s keeper, Sun Yun had tried to anticipate Gavanon’s strike before the Frenchman actually kicked the ball and realizing this, the Shenzhen playmaker simply placed the ball away from the already diving keeper. In essence, it was like sending the goalie the wrong way from a penalty but in this instance, it was a twenty-five yard free kick.
Sun, unexpectedly chosen in place of the regular goal keeper, Yan Junling, was to make things even worse for himself and his team five minutes later when he rushed off his line to close down a hopeful long ball launched from the Shenzhen half. Trying to narrow the angle as Babacar Gueye chased the ball down, the East Asia custodian suddenly stopped his pursuit and was caught in no mans land. Too far from goal to get back in time, Sun had given the Senegalese striker a practically open goal to aim at and the Shenzhen forward gleefully tucked the ball home to make it 3-2.
Realizing the game was collapsing around them, the East Asia bench acted swiftly and the shell-shocked Sun was withdrawn almost immediately after the restart for Yan. After sheepishly applauding the fans as he left the pitch, a clearly emotional Sun sat himself down on the substitute bench, far away from his teammates and management.
Remarkably, there was still time for more drama in the first half when Sun Kai, who has claimed the vacant position at left-back since Bai Jiajun left for Shanghai Shenhua, burst down the flank and whipped in a wonderful cross that was instinctively poked past Zhang by Wu and suddenly the game was tied up once again at 3-3.
It was the last act of an incredible first forty-five minutes of football but there was still more theater for the East Asia fans to look at. Despite all his teammates retreating to the dressing room during the break, no-one had come to check on Sun, who remained by himself on the substitute bench throughout halftime. Eventually before the inconsolable goalkeeper took himself back to the dressing room via a side entrance rather than the players tunnel.
The second half was considerably less action packed. The two sides looked punched out by their earlier exertions and with both teams struggling in the unrelenting humidity of the Shanghainese summer, players were constantly dropping to the ground with cramp.
Chen Po-Liang could have given Shenzhen an unlikely winner deep into injury time but his snatched shot from outside of the area was well saved by Yan. It was the first and only real chance of the second half and both teams seemed glad that they could get off the pitch with a share of the points after an unbelievable first half of excitement and unpredictable drama.
In other results in the China League One, Hunan Xiangtao were surprise 2-1 losers to Yanbian Tigers whilst Tianjin Songjiang draw 1-1 with Chongqing Lifan. This means East Asia now have a seven point lead at the top of the league despite taking just a point from their last two games.
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