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Shanghai East Asia battle to win first ever CSL point

Shanghai East Asia 1-1 Guizhou Renhe

CSL Round 2

Lü Wenjun 49 ; Zlatan Muslimovic 24

Attendance: 9,638

Both Shanghai East Asia and Guizhou had numerous chances to win the match but failed to capitalize upon them as both sides shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw. Guizhou played a direct, physical style, pushing East Asia off the ball to pressure Shanghai’s defense, but the home side had the good fortune to earned their first ever point in the CSL after a good battle against experienced opponents.

Following on from their clash against Beijing Guoan the previous week, East Asia bumped into another ACL  contender – Guizhou Renhe. The fixture also was the first ever home game for East Asia in the country’s top footballing division. Hence, anticipation as well as nervousness were the sentiments that could be felt lingering in East Asia followers’ minds while entering the compound around the 80,000 Shanghai Stadium.

Nearly 10,000 spectators headed to the game for the 3.35 pm kick off and – not surprisingly, because of the distance to Renhe’s base in Guiyang, the capital of southwestern province Guizhou – only a few travelling fans were visible in the away end in the stadium.

Turning to tactical matters, East Asia again played 4-2-3-1. The only two changes compared with the loss in Beijing were made in  defense. Captain Wang Shencao was moved from the left to the right (thereby replacing Li Yunqiu) and Sun Kai started on the left. The two defensive midfielders Cai Huikang and Wang Jiajie were to provide the three attacking midfielders Wu Lei, Lü Wenjun and Zhu Zhengrong who were assigned to pass at all times, with stability. Due to striker Dickson’s ankle injury, Cabezas started in the center.

Guizhou used a counter-attacking style and high balls to try to  breach the East Asia defence. For the first 20 minutes, East Asia controlled the ball but were unable to threaten the Guizhou goal. However, relying on experience and simple passing, Guizhou created several chances. One was missed by China International Yu Hai who missed out in a one-on-one chance against East Asia’s young keeper Yan Junling.

On 24 minutes, Guizhou finally took their chance to score. An accurate counter-attack followed an East Asia corner with former Wolfsburg player Misimovic having enough time and individual class to dribbles past the defence and deliver a wonder cross onto the head of Muslimovic from the edge of the penalty box. The latter made no mistake of nodding the ball behind the line for an easy goal.

East Asia were knocked off balance and Guizhou took control, containing East Asia while waiting for opportunities to create another goal. East Asia did regain some initiative towards the end of the first half, but they were unable to make much progress towards the opposition box.

After the re-start, Shanghai finally converted one of their chances. Wu Lei sprinted into Guizhou’s penalty area where he was fouled by former Manchester City player Sun Jihai. A penalty was awarded to East Asia, and Lü Wenjun stepped up to score and make it 1-1.

The equalizer gave East Asia more confidence as they gradually found more rhythm. Renhe still sought out chances to threaten East Asia, though. With almost an hour of the match played, both teams started to use substitutions. East Asia introduced Lin Chuangyi into the game – who was doing just fine in the last match against Guoan – and Guizhou Renhe substituted the Spaniard Rafa for Nano.

These two substitutions obviously indicated the two different game strategies of the teams for the remainder of the match. East Asia continued to try to keep the ball on the ground, while Guizhou wanted to use speed and high balls to tear holes into the opposition’s defense.

As in the first half, both teams created few chances, but to no avail. With about ten minutes to go, both teams appeared to settle for the draw. Renhe managed to create several more chances and missed a great opportunity with only seconds to go in the match’s time added-on, but East Asia resisted the aerial bombardment to hold on for a historic first point in the CSL.

Despite having played a tiring midweek ACL away game, Guizhou Renhe can hardly be satisfied with the result. It also raises questions of East Asia’s ability to win matches this year – can they turn possession into goals?

In East Asia’s two CSL games so far, Wu Lei is the only player to really create danger for the opposition and its the key man for the Shanghai Stadium side. In terms of the defensive line, even though East Asia have two foreign central defenders, the overall lack of experience is still the team’s biggest weakness.

Overall, this was not a bad result for East Asia as they managed a point against the 4th from last season. However, what is waiting further down the line in 2013 could be more challenging. It is obvious there are issues with both the offense and the defence.

Luckily the new manager Gao Hongbo has two weeks during the international break to adjusting his side’s tactics. How to avoid losing the ball in dangerous areas is one question he will want to address.

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