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Disgrace and humiliation as Shenhua knocked out of cup by 3rd tier side

Shanghai Shenhua 2-3 Dali Ruicheng

CFA Cup Round 3

Wang Changqing 35, Cao Yunding 90; Wang Peng 13, Zheng Wangyang 73, Ma Sai 75

One of the biggest CFA cup shocks in recent years took place last night at Hongkou Football Stadium as Shanghai Shenhua were utterly humiliated by 3rd tier side Dali Ruicheng in a profoundly embarrassing 2-3 defeat.

A complacent and disgracefully unprofessional mainly second-string Shenhua side  struggled to take the game to their lowly opponents, who scored two of their three goals due to shocking and unacceptable defensive lapses.

Cao Yunding and Li Jianbin were the only first team regulars in the starting XI for Shenhua, Jiang Kun made his first start of the season in midfield. Appearing at the back was 27-year-old defender Tao Jin, who made a grand total of zero appearances last season or indeed this year, and has played just 175 minutes of first team football for Shenhua in the past three years – a curious statistic for a player in his prime.

Shenhua’s absolutely criminal transfer policy was exposed by the fact that since China League 2 (CL2) teams are forbidden from signing foreigners, teams from higher leagues are not allowed to field their overseas players in cup games against CL2 teams. This meant bit-part player Yan Song, a midfielder, started upfront, with the clubs only apparent strikers being foreigners Dady and Firas Al-khatib.

The disaster started in the 13th minute when Tao Jin, somewhat short of match practice, played a very bad passback into the middle of the defence. Li Jianbin was caught ball watching, and Dali forward Wang Peng nipped in to slot the ball under Shenhua reserve goalie Qiu Shenjiong.

Shenhua tried to take the game to their opponents, but a more disjointed and incompetent attempt at playing football could not be imagined. Passes continually went astray, players were caught in possession, and when the team did get near the goal, shots flew high into the sky or laughably wide of the goal.

After coming close a couple of times and hitting the bar, Shenhua finally equalized when a long ball forward by Jiang Kun was lobbed over the keeper first time by Wang Changqing for his first Shenhua goal. The long-over due equalizer was met with a half-hearted celebration from the home fans.

Half-time and Shenhua went in to mild boos from the crowd. Not too long after the restart, Shenhua were awarded a penalty following a handball in the box. Ironically, after all the hullabaloo about Shenhua conceding two penalties against Sainty in their previous game, and not having won a penalty in 39 CSL games, stand-in striker Yan Song stepped up and his weakly-struck kick was easily saved by Dali keeper Jin Wenxin.

The half-hearted kick summed up Shenhua’s game, and they were made to pay for their awful impersonation of a professional football team when Tao Jin was beaten in the air by his opponent, and the ball headed to the middle of the box. Zheng Wangyang managed to glance the ball into the top corner of the net to put Dali ahead again. The writing was on the wall, Shenhua were heading for shame city.

In an otherwise miserable show, Jiang Jun rolled back the years with an acrobatic overhead kick which forced a reflex save from the Dali keeper. Shenhua fans rubbed their eyes in disbelief – overhead kicks from an ageing cigarette smoker in a game trailing a third division side.

But any hopes of avoiding catastrophe were lost when Dali’s Mai Sai drilled in a free-kick from 35 yards out, with overweight reserve goalkeeper Qiu Shenjiong not even paying attention to the game. The comedy fatman ended up sheepishly jogging back to collect the ball out of his net for the third time that evening, as the Dali players and staff celebrated wildly.

Shenhua, shamed into action, stepped things up a gear and actually bothered to chase the ball sometimes. Cao Yunding clawed a deflected goal back in injury time but it was way to little way too late and nothing could be done to prevent Shenhua slipping to one of its worst results in its history.

The final whistle was greeted by a cacophony of jeers, and, incredibly the players made their way to the north terrace to acknowledge the fans. The reaction was entirely predictable as the booing reached ear-splitting levels. Your correspondent, utterly disgusted by Shenhua’s insulting performance, couldn’t help but let fly with a purple-faced torrent of abuse from the terrace, which received some applause from fellow fans too demoralized to lambast the team themselves.

It’s difficult to put into words how monumentally awful this result was. Shenhua’s lineup had more than enough experience to make short work of a third tier side, but their complacent and extremely unprofessional attitude, not to mention basic footballing incompetence, meant Dali were able to overcome this pathetic and disgraceful collection of incompetent amateurs with three goals. There is no excuse for conceding three goals at home to a third division team, absolutely none.

Conspiracy theories circulated after the game, it was said Shenhua didn’t want to win as some felt it was delaying the inevitable knock out against Evergrande in the next round. But the CFA cup does offer the winner a place in the ACL, and regardless of anything else, the paying public have a right to see Shenhua do their utmost to win every competitive match.

With a few exceptions, those who appeared in Shenhua’s colours should seriously consider their futures as professional football players, this was not an off day or freak outcome, it was entirely of the making of a group of individuals not worthy of being paid to play football.

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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