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Controversial last minute penalty earns point for 10-man Liaoning against Shenhua

Liaoning Whowin 1-1 Shanghai Shenhua

CSL Round 18

Edu 90 (pen); Al-khatib 70

A contentious last-minute penalty allowed Liaoning to avoid a home defeat to a Shanghai Shenhua following a hard-fought match which saw one red card and several tough tackles.

Brazilian striker Edu scored his 12th goal of the season from the spot after Shenhua keeper Wang Dalei was judged to have pulled the Liaoning forward in the box. Edu’s equalizer cancelled out a scrappy goal some 20 minutes earlier from Syrian striker Firas Ak-khatib.

Thanks to a break for international friendlies, neither side had played for around two and a half weeks, but rustiness seemed conspicuous by its absence at least for Shenhua who looked the liver side in the opening stages.

The game was barely a minute old when a fantastic Gio Moreno forward ball found Firas Al-khatib on the left side, but the Syrian was quickly closed down an unable to get a powerful enough shot on goal to cause any problems for the home side.

In the 15h minute, Liaoning’s James Chamaga held off a Rolando Schiavi challenge to square a dangerous ball for Edu, but a great saving tackle from Li Jianbin in the Shenhua box kept the home side at bay. Soon afterwards Liaoning captain Zhao Junzhe took a great long-range dipping shot, but it fell straight into the arms of Wang Dalei.

Shenhua’s form player Song Boxuan blotted his copybook just moments later, when, on a charging diagonal run into the middle from the left, he overlooked team-mate Wang Changqing in a promising position to take a shot from distance which flew wide, when the pass looked like a far better option.

The rest of the first half was balanced, with Chamaga and Edu causing the Shenhua defence a lot of problems, but the away side breaking away dangerously at points.

The second half was a more turgid affair, as both teams struggled a bit on the bumpy pitch. But Shenhua broke the deadlock in the 70th minute when a low Baijia Jun drive was parried by Liaoning keeper, but after some poor defending, Al-khatib was able to stab the ball home past Liu Yang.

Soon afterwards, Shenhua’s grip on all three points was tightened when Liaoning’s Zhang Jingyang was sent off for an utterly shocking two-footed tackle on Dai Lin. Not even in with a chance of ever getting the ball, the substitutes challenge looked like a deliberate attempt to injure his opponent. He was rightly sent packing amid angry scenes on the away bench.

Shenhua shored up their defence and played possession football in an attempt to run down the clock. But it backfired when a long ball into their box was punched out by Wang Dalei. The clearance fell to Edu, who took a little time to bring the ball under control. Wang rushed out to block, but Edu turned him. As the Brazilian was preparing to shoot, Wang dived at his feet to snatch the ball. However the referee awarded a penalty, judging Wang to have unfairly impeded Edu. The replay is not conclusive but the award appears to be soft. The Shenhua players and bench were absolutely incensed, not for the first time this season dubious penalty calls had fallen on the Shanghai team. However it was of course all to no avail, Wang was booked, then Edu smashed the ball home for a late equalizer.

The result was a frustrating one for Shenhua especially after having a one man advantage, but the stats painted a roughly equal picture and a point away from home would have been a result the visitors would have settled for before the match. Liaoning for their part looked very reliant indeed on their foreign stars, who were not particularly on form last night, but they had to be pleased at snatching a late point in the circumstances.

After the game, Shenhua coach Shen Xiangfu apologised to the fans and management for his outburst at the penalty decision, although surely few found his reaction unacceptable. He will spend the next Shenhua game sitting in the stand, were he will be joined by Wang Dalei who is suspended for picking up four yellow cards.

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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