Shanghai Shenhua 3-0 Qingdao Joonon
CSL Round 30
Drogba 74, Song Boxuan 81, Griffiths 83
A surprisingly good end-of-season match at Hongkou Stadium saw Shanghai Shenhua run out 3-0 winners over Qingdao in a one-sided affair notable for a very public protest from the home fans.
At the end of the match, members of the Blue Devils held sarcastically worded banners aloft criticizing the club, which attracted the attention of police, but no efforts were made by any officials to have the banners removed.
“Thank you for a year of effort…but where is your so-called effort?
“Thank you for a year of torment, but where but where is the championship you promised?
The third banner was more conciliatory in tone, “Our hearts are still here, our dreams are still here, we just have to start all over again.”
The match itself started amidst a rather underwhelming feeling and a three-quarters empty stadium. The Blue Devils did a good job however of making some atmosphere, along with a surprisingly large contingent of Qingdao supporters, including a group of German students who had enthusiastically followed the team all season, and ended up drinking with your correspondent after the match in a noisy end-of-season celebration.
Shenhua’s line-up contained a few surprises. Reserve goalkeeper Qiu Shenjiong made his first appearance of the season in what appeared to be a token gesture. Unkind regular readers of ‘s Shenhua match reports may have heartlessly joked that it was musical chairs of another kind in Shenhua’s line-up. Speaking of which, regular musical chairs participant Yu Tao filled in at centre-half again for Dai Lin was out again. Brazilian Moises played alongside him, and Bai Jiazhun made a return at left back. Wu Xi on the right. Midfield saw Wang Shouting made a rare appearance, stepping in for Zheng Kaimu. Cao Yunding played on the left, Griffiths on the right, and Jiang Kun in the middle. In another slightly surprising appearance, Drogba returned to play upfront on his own.
Shenhua dominated the match from the off but there was not an awful lot of goalmouth action in the first half. Moises hit the post with a header from a corner in the 15th minute – but that would be his last act for Shenhua as he went off injured 5 minutes later, replaced by Qiu Tianyi. Head coach Batista would later confirm Moises will be leaving the club very shortly.
In the 17th minute, the post would again be struck by Shenhua – this time by Drogba who cleverly beat Qingdao’s Liu Jian in a surging run forward, held off some challenges by the defence, then rolled the ball past keeper Mou Pengfei only to be denied by the woodwork.
Bizarrely, the post would again deny Shenhua a goal, this time Gio Moreno side-footing the ball onto the woodwork from the middle of the box following a Drogba corner. What would the home side have to do to score, asked the blue faithful?
The home side thought they had their answer just before half-time, when during a Shenhua counter-attack, Cao Yunding played a nice ball into the path of Drogba who was felled on the edge of the box by Li Peng. It was a clumbsy challenge which saw his studs go into Drogba’s foot, but did he get the ball first? The referee not only thought not, but he also showed Li the red for being the last man.
Drogba took the resultant kick, and, incredibly, Shenhua had hit the woodwork for the fourth time in the half, as the ball bounced to safety. Half-time, 0-0.
The second half saw Shenhua maintain their dominance, but found breaking down Qingdao quite a struggle despite having an extra man advantage. But in the 74th minute, just when it looked as if the game might be petering out into a 0-0 draw, Drogba found himself in the box with two defenders standing off him. They paid for their over-cautiousness, for after a couple of dummies, Drogba found a space and fired a shot home which flew into the net to break the deadlock.
This goal had the effect of opening the floodgates, in the 81st minute unmarked Song Boxuan doubled the score when he recived Gio Moreno’s pass, to slot the ball home low. The Qingdao players protested that Drogba had distracted the goalkeeper whilst moving back into an onside position, but the referee ruled that he wasn’t interfering with play. To be honest, it was hard to agree with that decision.
Shenhua’s final goal came just two minutes later, when Gio Moreno won the ball in his own box and sent a fantastic long-range pass forward put Joel Griffiths clean through, he found the net for his swan song Shenhua goal.
The stage was set for one more final appearance, that of Shenhua veteran Cheng Liang. He replaced Griffiths just after his goal, and missed a great chance to score himself in the closing stages when he narrowly failed to get on the end of a cross into the box. But the game, the season, and Cheng’s playing career were soon over as the referee called time.
And thus, the end of surely the most remarkable season in Shenhua’s history was finally reached. The match saw the end of at least three Shenhua careers, the aforementioned Cheng Liang who had been with the club as a youth and then returned from Inter Shanghai in 2004, and foreign players Griffiths and Moises, neither of whom will be returning next year.
As to who exactly will be back next year, one can only guess at this stage.
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