Guizhou Renhe 2-2 Shanghai Shenhua
Jorda 64, Sun Jihai 90; Al-khatib 8, Moreno 19 (pen)
After racing into an early two-goal lead away to Guizhou Renhe on Saturday night, Shanghai Shenhua suffered the same fate they had dished out to many an opponent this season, losing out on three points after an unlikely comeback.
Shanghai East Asia, Wuhan, Shandong, Liaoning and Qingdao could have been forgiven for indulging in schadenfreude as a very late goal from former Manchester City defender Sun Jihai cancelled out a Al-khatib goal and a Moreno penalty to grab a deserved point for the home side.
Shenhua lined up without the suspended Xu Liang in midfield and Li Jiabin in the middle of defence, once again exposing Shenhua’s crazed transfer policy and the need for another game of positional musical chairs. Wu Xi was Shenhua’s regular right back and one of the club’s best players for the past few seasons until his sale last winter to Jiangsu Sainty. His replacement was centre-back Li Jianbin signed from Evergrande. With Argentine Rolando Schiavi a must-pick in centre defence, this meant previous centre half regular Dai Lin playing right-back more often than not this year. But with Li out, Dai moved back to the centre for this game, and right midfielder Wang Changqing found himself the odd man out at right-back when coach Sergio Batista stopped the music. Reserve right-back Xiong Fei, 25, was seemingly deemed not good enough.
The visitors were first to get on the score sheet, when Jiang Kun’s corner fell to Firas Al-khatib at the back post, who controlled the ball well and drilled in a low shot to open the scoring in the 8th minute. Shortly afterwards Shenhua almost doubled their lead when Song Boxuan did some great work on the left and delivered a dangerous cross right onto the head of Dady, but the Cape Verdian headed narrowly over.
Guizhou had a few forays forward but did not seriously test Shenhua keeper Wang Dalei. But in the 18th minute, the Shanghai side shocked their hosts by taking a two goal lead. Al-khatib broke down the left and was out-pacing Sun Jihai who appeared to take him down, but the video evidence was unclear. Regardless, it was Shenhua’s first CSL penalty in 40 rounds, and Gio Moreno stepped up to score it.
Shenhua had been pretty lethal so far in terms of goals scored to shots on target. But the visitors almost scored another goal without shooting when Guizhou defender Chen Changyuan’s backwards header hit his own post and went out for a corner. The upright would again be the centre of the next noteworthy incident, when Fan Yunlong’s free-kick had Wang Dalei beaten, but the woodwork saved Shenhua’s day.
In the second half, Guizhou upped their pressure which finally paid dividends in the 61st minute. Following a long ball into the Shenhua danger zone, and some head tennis with Muslimović, the ball fell to Rafa Jorda at the edge of the six yard box. The Spaniard finished from fairly close range emphatically, but from a clearly offside position. The officials didn’t spot this however and the goal stood, 1-2 Shenhua.
Guizhou enjoyed most of the second half, but Shenhua defended well enough to hold onto their lead until the final few minutes. But the visitors’ defensive powers lapsed when Zhang Cheng’s throw into the Shenhua box was not dealt with properly, and fell to an unmarked Sun Jihai at the end of the area. He rifled in a fantastic finish to equalize for Guizhou, and complete an impressive comeback for the home side – 2-2 it finished.
If the truth be told, a draw was the least Guizhou deserved – the south-western side had 9 out of 18 shots on target compared to just 3 out of 5 on target for Shenhua, who tralied Guizhou 62%-38% in terms of possession.
After the game rather farcical news emerged when the Shanghai media claimed a miscommunication between the coaching staff delayed an important tactical substitution. Sergio Batista, banned from the technical area for being sent to the stand in last week’s game against Beijing, had been communicating by walkie-talkie with the bench. The media claimed he had ordered winger Song Boxuan to come off for defensive midfielder Zhang Kaimu towards the end of the game, but due to no-one hearing the radio, the substitution was not made until the 92nd minute, after Guizhou had equalized.
Regardless, all those partial to Shenhua would have taken a draw away to Guizhou before the match started, even if the manner of the result was ultimately disappointing. Guizhou will take heart from a spirited fight back following their 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Evergrande in the midweek make-up game.
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