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Changchun edge Shenhua to grab first victory in 2013

Changchun Yatai 1–0 Shanghai Shenhua
Chinese Super League Round 14
Isac 40
Attendance: 11,246

It took them 14 attempts but Changchun finally won their first game of 2013 as Shanghai Shenhua also lost their unbeaten away record in the north-east of China last night.

The result was a vital win for Changchun and pushed China’s most northerly team out of the relegation zone and two points clear of second-bottom Wuhan, as the visitors failed to threaten the home side’s goal for much of what was a rather dull spectacle.

Shenhua were without two key players – Dai Lin and Xu Liang who were both suspended. News had also emerged abruptly just the day before that club captain Giovanni Moreno had already left Shanghai after having agreed a deal to join a club in Dubai. This meant a rare start for Argentinian playmaker Patrico Toranzo, and a recall to the first team for aging smoker, midfielder Jiang Kun.

Changchun enjoyed the upper hand right from the off and pressured Shenhua constantly, coming close in the opening stages with a couple of dangerous in swinging corners. Shenhua left back Bai Jiajun and keeper Wang Dalei keeping out the home side with a goal line clearance and a near post save respectively. In the 12th minute Liu Weidong broke through the Shenhua midfield with a penetrating run, his low shot was knocked wide by Wang.

Despite having most of the game, the home side did not threaten Shenhua’s goal much further. However in the 40th minute, Brazilian striker Isac took a low shot from just outside the box – Shenhua defender Rolando Schiavi tried to block but the ball took a deflection off his foot and flew into the net past a helpless Wang Dalei. Half-time 1-0 Changchun.

Sergio Batista made some changes at half-time, putting on playmaker Cao Yunding for Firas Al-khatib who appeared to be struggling with an injury. Shenhua enjoyed a better second half, but still didn’t threaten their host’s goal a great deal. Shenhua’s best chance came in the 56th minute when some interplay between Cao Yunding and Wang Changqing saw the former Beijing man force a good save out of Changchun keeper Song Zhenyu following a rasping half-volley from the right. Shenhua pushed and probed, with Song Boxuan coming close with a shot from wide left, and a good shot from debutant Liang Yu in the closing stages, but the men from Hongkou never really looked like scoring.

There was controversy in the closing stages when, in an effort to waste time, Australian midfielder Matt McKay decided to roll around on the ground feigning injury following an innocuous challenge from Cao Yunding. Shenhua’s Wang Shouting took exception to McKay’s play-acting and tried to drag him a metre or so over the touch-line so the game could continue. However, Changchun players and McKay himself were unamused by Wang’s efforts, resulting in a fracas and Wang Shouting being sent off for a second bookable offence. The sending off was too late to have much effect on the game, however it was ironic that a player was red-carded for trying to prevent unsporting behaviour and keep the game going.

So a first win for Changchun and a first defeat on the road in 2013 for Shenhua. Both teams looked off the pace, neither really deserved to take three points but Shenhua in particular lacked any penetration and missed Dai Lin and Xu Liang in the spine of the team. On this display, it’s not surprising Changchun have taken so long to register a win, they look laboured and lacking any spark. However their victory, combined with the fact that Shenhua have now gone two games in a row without scoring, means that the six point gap between these two sides could easily get smaller if Shenhua engage in their traditional summer slump.

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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