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Pub Talk: Derby Day aftermath…

The boys get down to serious business right away this week – a certain match attended by more than a few contributors last weekend hogs the limelight. The gloat-o-meter doesn’t register a high reading though, as Bcheng does what he can to salvage some pride, and Shanghai Ultra, feeling magnanimous, chuckles quietly as the Hongkou Hoodoo strikes again. China Derby aside, Africa features in the pub this week, as we ask if Guangzhou will see an upsurge of fans from that continent this weekend with Drogba and the Yak in the mix, as Anelka comes under fire from more than one direction. Elsewhere, The Guangzhou derby is looked over, nothing controversial happened there it seems, say the pub goers, as the pair mull over the prospects for the rest of the CSL season following another cull of teams from the CFA cup in midweek. Meanwhile, this week’s animal in the pub is a turtle, which is abused. Read on CSL fans, read on.

Shanghai Ultra: I told you you wouldn’t win at Hongkou.

Bcheng: Yes you did, and you were correct, it was a tough night.

S: Is that Bcheng admitting he was wrong?

B: I was obviously wrong, I thought this year’s side was stronger than the curse.

S: Heh heh. Pub Talk never fails to amuse. I think this year proved the curse is a formidable hoodoo. Beijing’s team was clearly stronger than Shenhua’s on paper, and yet after Shenhua scored, you never looked like winning despite controlling the game.

B: Think its time to take off those blue shades…. Guoan completely outplayed Shenhua in the first half and had the momentum going into the second half, Shenhua had one shot in the first half and scored on it. Guoan gifted Shenhua a goal early in the second half, but didn’t give up and kept pressing. I think Kanoute’s bicycle kick that hit the post sort of took the wind out of the side, they did everything possible, threw everything at Shenhua, and still couldn’t get one past Wang Dalei, up until that point, I think the result was still up in the air.

S: Haha, to say “completely outplayed” is absolute rubbish, the kind of comment only a Beijing fan could make. As a matter of fact, my match report came in for a bit of criticism from several match-going companions for being too generous to Beijing.

B: After that, the match was over, though Mao Jianqing being brought on was a bit of a shot in the arm, the match was already over. Shenhua took a single shot in the first half, it just so happened they scored on it.

S: But that doesn’t mean Beijing were any good. They didn’t deserve to win the match at all, they did very little with their possession – which was 59%-41% according to Sina’s match report.

B: Fair point, Beijing dominated possession, but there were few times that they really threatened Wang Dalei, especially in the first half. Too many crosses to Shao Jiayi all alone in the middle.

S: This is all good banter, and blue glasses jokes aside, I think my match report was very fair all things considered, I admitted the result flattered Shenhua, and on another night, the scoreline could have been reversed.

B: Yeah, it was a disappointing result for Beijing fans, but something that we’re used to. It’s hard dropping those three points, especially with the chance to have cut Evergrande’s lead to 5, but that happens/

S: That’s unfortunate from the title-races point of view, indeed. But Sainty didn’t miss the opportunity to close the gap, thankfully. It’s looking more and more like they will finish above Guoan, I’m afraid to say.

B: It’s still up in the air, but I wouldn’t bet otherwise, especially with Guoan having to go to Sainty toward the end of the season

S: Right, there are a lot of games to be played. Going back to the China Derby, not to gloat, but to make an observation about Shenhua. Namely, the last two games proved that the squad do not have a strong mentality and have motivation issues. These two games, away to Sainty and Guoan, saw the teams best performances of the year against very strong opponents. Yet what was the common factor? External stimulation – versus Jiangsu, the team were fired up after perceived unjust penalty awards, against Guoan, the obvious China Derby stuff, extra-strong crowd support, and the Drogba factor. In other words, self-motivation and determination is lacking in the squad.

B: I think the common factor was something very different, Moreno. Against Qingdao he didn’t really have time to make an impact, plus he had only just arrived. He’s shown himself to be a real difference maker.

S: He’s also a factor for sure, but you have to put his overall influence in perspective – he’s played in five games so far but Shenhua have only won one of those, against Guoan. I think its interesting to note that, Shenhua have won four league games this year, and Anelka has played in only two of those.

B: It’s a travesty that Anelka’s still cashing a paycheck, the arrival of Drogba doesn’t seem to have helped him very much. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t make it into the starting XI too often this season. I think Moreno is an automatic starter, and you probably need Moises in the defense (he’s also been playing better lately). With Drogba up top, that takes away all your foreign spots.

S: That’s a very good point actually. I hadn’t thought of that. But whilst there is a very strong case for putting Anelka on the bench and replacing him with Drogba, I just can’t see Anelka and Drogba not starting together. Rightly or wrongly, I don’t think Zhu Jun would let it happen to be honest.

B: I think you might be right about that, though it just seems wrong to drop Moises, especially with him scoring two goals in two matches.

S: If I was the manager, I would put Anelka on the bench, Moises is a solid defender, and Moreno is surely the first name on the teamsheet now. Drogba speaks for himself. It’s going to be interesting to see how it pans out. Having three foreign strikers really is a gross waste of resources.

B: Most definitely. So can we move on to some of the other weekend action?

S: Yeah its time to move on. Some big results, and where else to take the discussion next but to Tianhe stadium. A huge win for Fuli, not something I expected. Did you?

B: I didn’t expect them doing the double over Evergrande, especially on the road, but then again Muriqui was out of the starting lineup and who knows where Conca’s brain is.
Yakubu also put in an impressive performance, including scoring the winning goal.

S: Yeah, which incidentally I didn’t see a thing wrong with. I’m not sure why there was the controversy. It was a wicked in swinging corner which might have flown into the net unassisted, the Evergrande keeper missed his punch.

B: Right, I’d agree with that. It just wasn’t Evergrande’s night. Barrios’ first touch was a nice header that just hit the post. That’s the way things go sometimes. But I’m excited to see both Yakubu and Barrios throughout the rest of the year.

S: Yeah, Barrios looked pretty good indeed, Yakubu scored, instant impacts. You could say the same about Kanoute also. To be honest, all of them have made more of an impact than a certain other big money import has done all season.

B: Exactly, they have shown themselves to be true difference makers in a way that Anelka simply hasn’t done. It’s nothing to do with scoring, it’s that having them on the pitch has taken things up a notch.

S: The result of the match though pleased me, only for the good of the CSL title race though, you understand.

B: Of course. Anything that keeps things interesting. Speaking of which, Shenhua doesn’t really have much to play for anymore, eh?

S: I’d agree with that. Whilst I’d expect Drogba to make a big impact, I can’t see us overcoming a nine-point gap and leapfrogging nine teams to get to 3rd place and an ACL spot as some inside Shenhua are saying.

B: Right, I can see Shenhua climbing up the table, but with the gap what it is, I can’t see the top teams continuing to drop that many points while Shenhua win every match.

S: Even with Drogba Shenhua aren’t going to win every match, lets not forget there aren’t all that many left, only 13 to be exact. Shenhua should use the rest of this season to gel the new squad and re-boot Anelka. If the whole squad can get a half a season behind them to work out how to play together, I’d again predict them to be serious title contenders next season, despite my humilation this year, prediction wise.

B: Right, right…Well, somebody was missing my efforts (excellent as they were) to move on to a new topic, ie I’m guessing Shenhua’s England-like penalty kicks last night.

S: Yeah, sorry Shenhua has dominated the discussion enough already, let me finish up by saying that, after the Beijing game I warned everyone not to get too excited, bread and butter games are those such as away matches to Changchun, it’s a hard and distance place to goto, and lo and behold, Shenhua suddenly were failing to score again with Anelka back in the team. There’s nothing much to be said about penalties at any time, last night was no different, Shenhua had their chances to win the game but didn’t take them, they are now out of the cup and can’t really have any complaint.

B: It’s unfortunate too, because it could have created a very tasty semifinal China Derby.

S: Yeah that would have added something solid to look forward to, but it was not to be. So other games to cover, we are a bit all over the shop here since we have last weekend’s CSL games, and last nights cup games.

B: Yes, unfortunately the CFA Cup didn’t produce much in the way of upsets, with the two lower division teams crashing out, however it was interesting how Qingdao all but gave up against Beijing, playing a youth side that got crushed 6-0. The match saw Kanoute and Guerron getting their first starts at Worker’s Stadium and both scored on the night. They are certain to be an unbelievable strike force going forward.

S: Yeah I think CSL fans are in for a treat from them. Also, I rather suspected Qingdao played a weakened side, that is a pity, it doesn’t help the competition’s credibility.

B: True, but it happens all over the world. I think their goal is to try and stay up and that’s their focus. In reality, there were only a few players (ie the foreigners) missing from their regular XI.

S: It does happen all over the world, but CSL teams only have 30 games, that is less than most leagues, they ought to man up and make a proper effort.

B: Anyways, they got crushed, a nice night for the fans, especially after Shanghai where Guoan couldn’t find the net. So on to this weekend, who do Shenhua have? Is this when you face off against the Guangzhous?

S: This weekend Shenhua are away to R&F, the weekend after they are in Guangzhou again for Evergrande. I think a fair few fans are going down there for the week to take in both games, I assume the squad will spend the whole week there also.

B: Yeah, that would be the smart way to do things. I think it will be interesting to see how Drogba and the team does. They won’t face many challenges as tough as back-to-back away games in Guangzhou.

S: It’s a tough start for Drogba if indeed he does more than go down to Cantoland to marvel at the culinary curiosities on offer in the deep south. What about Beijing? Who is on the radar?

B: It’s Hangzhou that will be entering the friendly confines of Worker’s Stadium Saturday night.

S: Hmm. Feeling confident? Hangzhou seem to be very inconsistent this year.

B: I think with it being at home and the team coming off the high of Qingdao, Guoan should take all three points.

S: That’s a fair bet. We’ve heard about Kanoute, infact I think everyone knew his name before he came here, but what about Guerron? What kind of player is he?

B: He’s a hell of a talent in his own right, a Copa Libertadores winner and player of the year who spent time in Spain and Brazil. He’s nicknamed Dynamite and has shown why, his speed and ability to get around defenders is very impressive.

S: He put in some good crosses against Shenhua last week, he looks like the kind of foreign player CSL clubs should focus on, someone who makes impact but presumably doesn’t cost 200,000 pounds a week.

B: Right, it’s about spending within a budget, but still finding talented players.

S: Yeah. So what else is up this weekend? Not as exciting a fixture card as last week’s derby weekend, but anything worth talking about?

B: Henan’s never an easy place to go to, but I don’t think they can find a way to keep Evergrande from taking all three points. Jiangsu also shouldn’t really struggle at home against Tianjin. If I had to say one other game that may be interesting, it would be seeing if Luneng can keep things going. That or Changchun against Liaoning. The fixture of the week has to be in Guangzhou.

S: The Shenhua game?

B: Yep, Evergrande’s in Zhengzhou.

S: Hmm, it probably is the game of the round, everything else again is kinda top v bottom, sort of.

B: There’s too many teams just hanging around right now. There aren’t any of those top of the table clashes this weekend nor any interesting derbies. You gotta go with Shenhua just because everyone wants to see Drogba play, and it will be all the more interesting since he’d be going up against fellow African, Yakubu. I do think the Changchun-Liaoning game should be fun though. They’re only four points apart in the table and it’s not a long away trip. I think Liaoning’s out of contention for an Asian spot, but Changchun still has a shot. If they’re serious about one, they need to start winning. Or should I say keep winning.

S: Right, and on Yakubu, it was good to read Donald’s fascinating report of being at the Guangzhou derby, it was very interesting to see Africans in the Canton Blue Army, and with Drogba there this weekend, I think Guangzhou’s large African population will be rocking the house.

B: I expected it, he mentioned the number was in the single digits, I expect that’s going to grow quickly.

S: Yeah you highlighted that before and its a very relevant call you made, kudos. It will be interesting to see how it develops, the African fan base.

B: Well, let’s see all you Nigerians and Ivory Coasters out this weekend, should be a lot of fun! Cheers, and thanks for going easy on me.

S: Haha, I’m above petty insults and childish jokes. Turtlefucker! Cheers mate until next week.

A leading international commentator on Chinese football frequently quoted by the world's top media. Offers piercing and resolutely honest insights into the bustling crossroads where football, society, economics and politics meet in contemporary China. Based in Shanghai since 2005, observer of the Chinese game since 2000.

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