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Shanghai Shenhua back to zero after derby stalemate with Hangzhou

Hangzhou Greentown 0-0 Shanghai Shenhua

Chinese Super League Round 4

Against all odds, Shanghai Shenhua are now back on zero points after a close season punishment deduction, thanks to a goalless draw with Hangzhou Greentown last night.

For the second game in succession, South American’s Gio Moreno, Rolando Schiavi and Patrico Torenzo were missing from the line-up, as the Spanish-speaking trio again refused to appear due to unpaid wages. But despite their unnecessary absence, Shenhua defended solidly to come away with a valuable away point in a typically terse Yangtze Delta Derby with their close neighbours from Zhejiang province.

Shenhua started with a similar 4-2-3-1 line-up to the previous week – Syrian striker Firas Al-Khatib alone upfront and Dady again on the bench. In the Hangzhou ranks was former Shenhua defender Wang Lin, facing his old club for the first time. Shenhua made a slightly livelier start, with a looping ball into the box headed uselessly in the over the bar by Jiang Kun, who was unable to jump to get a better connection when the chance came his way in the opening minutes.

The away side, playing in a change strip of white, were next to threaten again, and Al-Khatib put Cao Yunding through with a clever low pass into the left side of the Hangzhou box. Cao got to the ball and shot but Greentown’s keeper Jiang Bo was equal to the task.

In the 32nd minute, Shenhua had the best chance of the game. Cao Yunding got hold of the ball just inside the Hangzhou half, and after a short run, unleashed a lovely through ball which took out three defenders and fell right into the path of Al-Khatib and put him one-on-one with Jiang Bo. The Syrian managed to round the Hangzhou keeper, but couldn’t keep the ball under tight enough control and it ran wide before he could shoot into the unguarded net and the chance was lost.

In a fairly dull first half, incident was conspicuous by its absence. However in the 38th minute, Hangzhou could have scored when Wang Song’s dangerous looping freekick into the Shenhua box was met by the head of Korean defender Kim Dong-Jin, but he could only head over the bar. His blushes were eased slightly by the linesman’s flag indicating he was offside.

In the 70th minute, Mazola, Greentown’s Brazilian forward, beat a couple of defenders in the box and unleashed a curling shot which looked like it was going to breach the Shenhua net, but his effort flew just wide.

Both sides pushed and prodded towards the end of the match, with Greentown enjoying slightly more pressure in the closing stages, but the match had 0-0 written all over it and the ref called time on a fairly tame derby, with the result being celebrated more by Shenhua than the home side, understandably – full-time 0-0.

Shenhua now find themselves back on level points, and have largely exceeded expectations by climbing out of their -6 points deduction hole after four games. As a matter of fact, thanks largely to the ineptitude of Wuhan Zaal, and Tianjin suffering the same points deduction fate as Shenhua, the Hongkou side are now already out of the relegation zone.

Questions must be asked as to how much Argentinians Schiavi and Toranzo, and Columbian club captain Gio Moreno are really missed. Schiavi was a rock in defence in his opening two games and he was clearly missed last week against Liaoning, Shenhua shipping two goals at home. But Toranzo has done little other than score a goal laid on a plate for him by Al-Khatib during the Shanghai Derby. And Moreno for the most part is not enough of a team player and disturbs the balance of the team. Certainly he has a case to answer as club captain as to why he is not playing on regardless of the wage issue, like Al-Khatib is. Although he must not be judged for that.

Despite the wages issue, team morale would appear to be at an all-time high. Stand in captain Wang Dalei said in a post match interview “I’ve said before, we can be missing anyone, it’s alright, we are a team. It’s not like you are playing badminton with one player.”

For Hangzhou, the men in green suffered a similar lack of cutting edge going forward in much the same way as their opponents did. Stand out performers were lacking, and Japanese coach Okada looks to have limited materials to work with this season. With the possible exception of Jiangsu Sainty in Nanjing, the Yangtze Delta teams of Shanghai’s East Asia, Shenhua, Shenxin and Hangzhou, may well exclusively feature in the bottom half of the CSL this season.

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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