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North Terrace Preview: Dalian Aerbin v Shanghai Shenhua

Will the comeback kings triumph once more as they visit the CSL’s biggest let-down of 2013? Shenhua head to Aerbin on Saturday afternoon for CSL Round 28.

Last Time Out

Shanghai Shenhua continued their 2013 trend of impressive, match winning second half performances with yet another come-from-behind 2-1 win — this time at home to high-flying Guizhou Renhe. Trailing 2-1 to an own goal from the unfortunate Rolando Schiavi, Shenhua hit back through two penalties — neither of which, for a welcome change, was debatable — a blatant handball followed by Sun Jihai’s tired, cynical chopping down of a mazy Song Boxuan dribble.

Icy-veined marksman Firas al-Khatib once again made no mistake from the spot, twice sending the North Terrace into raptures.

Aerbin, meanwhile, continued a season of remarkable, unexpected and frustrating inconsistency with a 2-0 defeat to Tianjin TEDA. The hosts haven’t won for a couple of games — and with that victory coming against Shanghai Shenxin, they haven’t beaten an actuall football team in even longer.

Causes for Optimism…

Other than fixtures away to Evergrande and Guoan, it’s simply not possible to write off this Shenhua side — the absentee list grows longer and the first half performances more listless, yet still they find a way to force the late comeback.

Aerbin are also not necessarily the team to strike fear into CSL hearts which many pundits predicted following another high-profile close-season. Indeed, with the departure of Peter Utaka to Beijing Guoan, captain Yu Dabao is perhaps the only marquee Aerbin player who has shown much consistency and drive this year.

… and for Concern

It’s been said before, but Shenhua can’t keep relying on comebacks to mask their tepid, aimless first-half performances under Shen Xiangfu. Schiavi’s own goal, while unfortunate, highlighted for the second week running that this backline can look shaky when turned, and North Terrace Preview has seen far too many limp Shenhua performances after international breaks to go into this clash with optimism.

Watch Out For

With captain Gio Moreno absent and Xu Liang limping off with what hopefully was not a serious recurrence of his cruciate ailment, Patricio Toranzo was once again given an opportunity in the center of the park. While other contributors may disagree, Toranzo’s performance was a Diet Moreno to this fan’s eyes — flashy, wasteful, classy at times but ultimately ineffectual. Will the Argentinean be given another run out in a position he looks far from natural in, or will Shenhua be able to use his eye for a pass further up the field where the physical frailty and questionable fighting spirit would be less of an issue?

The Verdict

Home win — Shenhua to wilt without their home fans cheering them on, and struggle to get back into the game after allowing Aerbin into a first half lead. North Terrace Preview has a sneaking suspicion that Shenhua will get well beaten in one of their remaining fixtures now that there’s truly nothing left to play for, and it might just be here. 3-1 to Aerbin, with taking a 10% cut of any long-odds betting proceeds.

Reality Check

Shenhua according to North Terrace Preview:

P 27   W 11   D 7   L 9   GF 34   GA 38   GD -4   Pts 34

Shenhua according to the CSL table:

P 27  W 10   D 11   L 6   GF 32   GA 30   GD +2   Pts 35

Steve hosts the Chinese Football Podcast, having joined the WEF team as correspondent for Shanghai Shenhua, the side he has followed since moving to Shanghai in 2010. Exiled from the Victorian town-centre idyll of Feethams along with his childhood football team, Steve spent many an (un)happy year on Hongkou's North Terrace along with the Shenhua Element Crew and Blue Devils before relocating to Sydney from where he continues to follow the Chinese game from afar.

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