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Dullness in Dalian as Shenhua and Aerbin fail to score

Dalian Aerbin 0-0 Shanghai Shenhua

CSL round 29

Although the chances of being relegated were small, Shenhua finally stumbled to safety with just one game to go by picking up the necessary point in a 0-0 draw with ACL-chasing Dalian Aerbin.

A rather dull end-of-season stalemate was the outcome of Shenhua’s last away game of the season despite both teams having something to play for – Aerbin were looking for a victory to boost their Asian Champions League.

The most notable thing about Shenhua’s line-up was the surprising return of Giovanni Moreno. He had previously been injured, but there was widespread talk on Hongkou’s north terrace that Zhu Jun was up to his old tricks again by withholding him from the team, to try to scare the other shareholders into handing over the majority stake he claims he is due.

On-loan leftback Bai Jiazhun was also missing, so Song Boxuan, a left winger, took his place as musical chairs resumed in the Shenhua line-up. Brazilian defender Moises played his second game in a row alongside Dai Lin, Wu Xi the right back as always. In midfield, Cao Yunding started again, as Zheng Kaimu returned. Jiang Kun and Yu Tao were the other men in midfield, as Joel Griffiths played up front on his own in a 4-5-1 formation.

The first action of note happened in the 5th minute when an excellent through ball from Cao Yunding found Griffiths in the Aerbin box. He did well to get a shot off, however he was totally outnumbed and wasn’t able to get it on target.

The game was becoming an end-to-end one, and Gio Moreno should have done better than shoot harmlessly over the bar following a good run up the middle of the field.

It wasn’t one-way traffic however and Peter Utaka forced a great save out of Wang Dalei when he fired a low shot on target after a flowing move by the park from Aerbin. In the 24th minute, Aerbin midfielder Wang Jun should have done much better when the ball dropped to him deep in the Shenhua box, but instead of firing it first time he waited for the ball to come down again and squandered the chance.

In the 37th minute, Moreno put a great ball up the field to Song Boxuan who held off a strong challenge to fire in a shot which properly tested home goalie Liu Weiguo. Song held his face in his hands after failing to find the net, but in truth he had done well to get the shot on target.

In the 68th minute, Wang Dalei had to look sharp to palm away a shot from the left hand side of the box from former Barcelona man Keita. Just ten minutes later he was again denied by good positioning from Wang when a clever lob over the Shenhua defence from the Malian, but he shot straight at the Shenhua keeper.

That was about it, not a terrible game by any means but it had a distinct end-of-term feel to it. The stats had possession and shots on goal roughly equal, it was a reasonable result. And as pointed out in ‘s very own North Terrace Preview, Shenhua’s failure to win means the team’s awful away record continues – the Hongkou side won only one game away from home last year, even worse than the previous season’s road tally of two victories.

For the record Shenhua’s away record this season reads W1 D9 L5, compared with last seasons W2, D2, L11. So there was some progress at least.

Shenhua finish their season with a proverbial dead-rubber against in-form Qingdao Jonoon this Saturday at Hongkou Stadium, kick-off 15.30.

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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