Shanghai Shenhua 0-1 Hangzhou Greentown
Chinese Super League round 19
A goal just four minutes from time was enough to give previously out-of-form Hangzhou all three points in an underwhelming Monday night Yangtze Delta Derby against Shanghai Shenhua.
The Zhejiang province team capitalised on a mistake by Shenhua’s stand-in keeper Qiu Shenjiong to score four minutes from time and pull away from the danger zone, and leave Shenhua just six points clear of second-bottom.
The game kicked off on a Monday evening due to Hongkou stadium hosting a pop concert at the weekend – priorities, priorities. Accordingly, the grass looked worn and damaged despite not having been played on for nearly a month. There was also litter on the pitch, and just to make the conditions worse, the game was being played in the middle of the hottest summer Shanghai has experienced in decades – the evening temperature was around 33c, down some 5-6 degrees on the level thermometers hit in the city a few hours earlier in the afternoon.
The game kicked off at an understandably slow pace as both teams patiently prodded around for an opening with not a lot of action in the opening stages. Shenhua won a decent chance in the 10th minute with a free kick just outside the area, but Gio Moreno ballooned it harmlessly over.
In the 28th minute, Hangzhou’s Gao Di released a superb through ball which split the Shenhua back line right open for Brazilian striker Mazola. Greentown’s number 9 outpaced Shenhua’s 40-year-old defender Rolando Schiavi to reach the ball, but he hit his low shot just wide when it looked like a goal was more likely.
Just five minutes later, Greentown were given a massive let-off when the referee missed a stonewall penalty. Hangzhou defender Liu Bin first tugged Firas Al-khatib’s jersey, then felled him with a waist-high challenge which did not get anywhere near the ball and resulted in Shenhua’s Syrian being taken completely out of play on the left of the penalty box. But in a display of breath-taking incompetence, instead of awarding the glaringly obvious penalty, he gave a corner despite Firas having touched the ball last before it went out.
Not long before half-time, Mazola had the ball in the net with a flick over his shoulder, but his impressive effort was ruled out for having high feet right next to Li Jianbin’s head.
After the re-start, Hangzhou’s Feng Gang hit a great free-kick from on the edge of the box, but his effort flew just an inch wide of the post with Qiu Shenjiong absolutely nowhere near it. Shenhua tried to strike back later in the half when Toranzo released Dady on the left side. The Cape Verdean international released an accurate low diagonal shot, but from that angle it was no problem for Hangzhou custodian Gu Chao. In the 68th minute, Al-khatib should have done better than to head wide from a deep cross into the six yard box when it looked easier to score, and later in the second half, Dady missed a great chance when a Cao Yunding cutback wasn’t dealt with properly by the Hangzhou keeper, but he just failed to connect his head to the ball with the goalmouth gaping wide open.
Just when it looked as if the game was going to grind out to a 0-0 draw, disaster struck for Shenhua. Qiu Shenjiong, long the subject of criticism on for his erratic performances, handled the ball outside the box after his inertia carried him beyond the line. From the resultant free-kick, the ball was played into the box then out again, and then a low bouncing shot was knocked past Qiu by Japanese striker Masashi Oguro who was right in front of the Shenhua keeper. The angles on the replay don’t show exactly what happened, but Qiu looked like he should have done much better. Up until this point, Qiu had actually performed reasonably well. But in effect, the penalty decision against Shenhua in the last game versus Liaoning, which saw Wang Dalei controversially booked, in effect robbed Shenhua of four points.
Hangzhou’s fans celebrated wildly, as Hongkou’s north terrace berated them in Shanghainese as “country bumpkins”. It was typical Yangtze Delta banter off the pitch, and on the pitch the game was typical too – a low scoring draw with not an awful lot of good football on display. Hangzhou were the much more positive side, Shenhua played far too defensively at home, pinging the ball around sideways for long periods. Gio Moreno gave the ball away on three occasions before going off with an injury in the 30th minute, and despite his erratic qualities, he is still a game changing player who Shenhua missed.
Too many other players failed to perform for Shenhua, most of all Song Boxuan who is reverting to his habit of last season of trying to beat players and shoot too often instead of passing or crossing. Jiang Kun also made an unwelcome return, coming on in the second half for Zheng Kaimu. The ageing cigarette smoker huffed and puffed in the 33c heat of the Shanghai night, his sluggish movement and lack of incisive passing summed up Shenhua’s performance perfectly.
The outcome was Hangzhou’s first-ever victory at Hongkou stadium and saw them pull away from the drop zone after a series of poor results which leave Shenhua still in danger of being dragged in to the relegation dog fight.