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Late equalizer against Tianjin keeps Shenhua out of danger zone

Tianjin Teda 1-1 Shanghai Shenhua

CSL round 17

Valencia 23; Dady 83

Attendance: 15,666

Tianjin Teda remain stuck in the relegation places after a late Shanghai Shenhua equalizer meant the visitors retained their seven-point lead over the home side at the wrong end of the CSL table.

The home side held the upper hand thanks to a strike from Columbian midfielder Carmello Valencia, before Cape Verdean striker Dady scored a vital equalizer in the closing stages.

Not for the first time this season, Shenhua found themselves in disarray going into an important match following Sergio Batista’s sudden resignation. However, new Shenhua coach Shen Xiangfu named an unchanged starting 11, picking the exact same side as Batista did in his final game in charge.

What also remained unchanged was Shenhua’s insipid play of late. Tianjin had the upper hand right from the off, Brazilian midfielder Dinélson almost opening the scoring for the home side with a shot from a very tight angle at close range which flew just over the bar. Eder Lima was next to test Shenhua keeper Wang Dalei with an accurate strike from the edge of the box, but the visitor’s custodian did well to beat away the Brazilian’s shot.

Shenhua had little in the way of opportunities, save  for a Jiang Kun dipping volley in the 16th minute which went just over. Tianjin however opened the scoring seven minutes later when Valencia took advantage of a stretched and out-of-position Shenhua back line to do a very slick one-two with Dinélson on the right. The Columbian made no mistake and drilled a low shot past Wang Dalei to open the scoring.

In the second half, Wang Dalei again come to Shenhua’s rescue, with an impressive diving save following a long-range shot from Tianjin’s Zhou Liao. Shenhua by this time were battling hard for every ball and enjoying a bit more possession in the second half, but failed to really threaten.

Tianjin were unlucky in the 77th minute when a Lima freekick bounced down off the bar. Aussie defender Erik Paartalu struck the rebound on target, but his shot was only just cleared by Shenhua’s Li Jianbin as opponents were queuing up to knock the ball into the unguarded net.

The home side were made to rue their inability to add to their lead in the 83rd minute, when Song Boxuan released full-back Bai Jiajun down the left side. The pint-sized Shanghainese defender put in a perfect low ball to the far side of the box which on-rushing striker Dady scuffed into the net with inside of his heel.

Dady almost stole all three points for the visitors with a great header in the very dying seconds of the match, but Tianjin’s substitute keeper Zong Lei pulled of a good save. The keeper had earlier replaced Yang Qipeng who took an accidental kick to the head after diving at the clumsy feet of Dady.

With that, the match finished 1-1, a result which will no doubt please Shenhua more than Tianjin , who had looked like they would edge the game for most of the contest. Tianjin had 11 shots on goal with 6 on target, Shenhua’s corresponding figures were seven shots and just two on target, Shenhua however edged time on the ball with 55% of possession.

The result was a big one for Shenhua which kept them 7 points ahead of the side which also started the 2013 on minus 6 points. Results elsewhere favoured neither team, with Wuhan winning and Changchun drawing, leaving Tianjin sharing the bottom place with Wuhan on 9 points. Tianjin are still in the thick of the relegation battle but Shenhua are far from safe at just 7 points clear of the danger zone.

UK trained journalist and long-time Chinese football observer Cameron Wilson has been writing about Chinese football for over a decade…

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