Guangzhou R&F 4 – 2 Shanghai Shenhua
China Super League Round 30
Yakubu 27’ (pen), Rafael Coelho 68’, Davi 85’ (pen), Zhang Shuo 89’ ; Firas Al-Khatib 63’, Xiong Fei 77’
Guangzhou R&F won an action packed and at times controversial game to end their season on a high note. Most of the action came in the second half which saw the hosts have substitute Lu Lin sent off but still manage to fight off the much vaunted Shenhua comeback and score two late goals to collect their first three points since August 18th.
Shanghai Shenhua came into the game fifth in the CSL thanks to Giovanni Moreno’s heroics in midweek but there would be no place for him (injured) or Argentinian defender Schiavi (suspended) in the match squad which meant Shenhua only named six of a possible seven substitutes. Cao Yunding was amongst these as the ageing Jiang Kun was given a start.
Guangzhou R&F knew a win would give them their best ever CSL finish and also showed a number of changes from midweek. Goalkeeper Cheng Yuelei was restored to the starting line-up after his suspension, Zhang Yuan returned in place of Lu Lin and Li Jiahhua made only his twelfth start of the season.
The chance to be ‘best of the non-ACL qualifiers’ was on offer and both teams were out to take it; Shanghai’s Wang Fei had an early shot deflected wide and Guangzhou’s Rafael Coelho flashed a shot across the face of the goal. The Brazilian was heavily involved for R&F throughout and was denied two penalties within five minutes; the second fell squarely into the ‘soft but you’ve seen them given’ category whilst Coelho tried to get himself fouled for the first one which should have been awarded but wasn’t.
The hosts did get a penalty a few minutes later though when, after some lovely skill inside the box, Jiang Ning was brought down by a pair of Shenhua defenders. Shanghai keeper Wang Dalei did everything he could to increase the pressure on Yakubu by wasting time having a drink, toweling down his face, cleaning both of his boots and just staring into space trying to faze the big Nigerian. He should have known better though because Yakubu always looks very relaxed, sometimes to the detriment of his side, and here his cool paid off as he scored easily.
Wang had kept Yakubu waiting so long that the penalty was the Nigerian’s last action as he pulled a muscle in the act of scoring and had to be replaced by Lu Lin. The diminutive winger almost doubled the lead but shot into the side netting with only Wang to beat. The depleted Shenhua side struggled in the first half with Zheng Kaimu one of their better outfield players although keeper Wang was in fantastic form and denied Coelho several times. His tactic of aiming goal kicks at Dady and a left wing flooded with bodies was unsuccessful throughout the game though.
View from Shenhua correspondent Cameron Wilson
A rather disappointing end to an otherwise very respectable season for Shenhua who, thanks to their threadbare squad, badly missed Schiavi, Moreno and Xu Liang. It’s the second time Shenhua have conceded two penalties in one game this season, but Wang Shouting’s challenge for the second was ridiculous and deserved a card.
Also frustrating was losing two goals after R&F had a man sent off – no excuse even if one goal was a penalty. It was pleasing however to see fringe player Xiong Fei on the scoresheet, one wonders why he wasn’t given more chances earlier this year.
After the game, some rather odd things were said by Wang Dalei accusing an individual player of untoward conduct. The exact nature of such wrongdoings or the individual in question remains a mystery for the time being. Summing up, it very much feels as if the end of the season has come at the right time for Shenhua and this game is best forgotten as an end of season dead-rubber as far as the club is concerned.
Wang was called into action immediately after the restart and bravely came out to block Zhang Yuan in a challenge that left both needing treatment. Coelho continued to have a nightmare infront of goal and against the run of play Shenhua equalised. Jiang Kun curled a long pass to Firas Al-Khatib inside the area and the Syrian did the rest by himself, twisting and turning away from Li Jianhua before his shot deflected off Eddy Bosnar and past the helpless Cheng Yuelei.
R&F responded well and Lu Lin burst into the penalty area before seemingly being fouled by a lunging Shenhua defender but the referee ruled it a dive and booked Lu much to his incredulity and the crowd’s anger. Lu played a big role in putting R&F into the lead again though. His freekick was superbly saved by Wang but Lu sent over the corner that Coelho headed in at the near post to score his first since July.
There were still twenty minutes left and R&F had a freekick 30 yards from goal which Lu took quickly, the referee didn’t like this though and not only called play back but also issued a second yellow to Lu which Wang sprinted 30 yards from his line to remind the referee that this should mean a red card. Already riled by his antics before Yakubu’s penalty and this piece of advice to the referee, the home crowd got really angry with Wang when he screamed at ball boy for not returning the ball quickly enough; a bit rich from a man who was more than happy to time waste in the first half at 0-0 and subsequently at 1-1.
Fans of Shenhua have become accustomed to late comebacks this year and R&F fans equally used to leaking goals from corners so, with Cao Yunding now on, it was no surprise when Shenhua drew level. The Shanghainese side had only two men in the box and R&F inexplicably failed to mark one of them, Xiong Fei, who scored.
The drama didn’t stop here though as R&F were still looking to find a winner rather than defend a 2-2 draw, although Shenhua were increasingly pushing their hosts back. They were also pushing R&F players in the face and getting away with it; referee and linesman both missed what was almost a clothesline from Zheng Kaimu on Li Jianhua and in a perplexing decision had early deemed that Xiong Fei pushing Davi over by p
utting a hand in his face as they both raced after a loose ball was only worthy of a yellow card.
The referee got his next decision right though as he awarded R&F a penalty when Wang Shouting scythed down substitute Zhang Shuo. This time Davi was the penalty taker and Wang again delayed the kick as long as possible and the referee had to speak to him three times and had almost taken a yellow card out of his pocket before Wang deigned to do his job and stand between the posts. His gamesmanship was again worthless as Davi tucked away the penalty for his fourth of the season. Four minutes later Wang would again have to pick the ball out of his net as Zhang Shuo calmly chipped him after being set free by Jiang Ning’s long ball.
Having not seen a game as exciting as this all year the R&F faithful at a sunny Yuexiushan were ecstatic by this point and barely noticed three outstanding saves by Cheng, who showed Wang that he wasn’t the only talented keeper on the pitch, in injury time and another classic case of poor set piece defence by R&F in the last-minute which allowed Shanghai keeper Wang to crash a shot against the post.
The loss meant Shenhua finish the 2013 CSL in eighth place, one behind neighbours Shenxin, but those at Hongkou will be rueing the six point deduction and surprising final day line-up as they could’ve easily finished higher.
Guangzhou R&F end the season in sixth which is one place higher than last year and many places higher than when Sergio Farias was sacked although they too could have finished higher had they not had a disastrous late season run of form with only two wins in their final ten games. They saved their best performance until last though and individually Davi, Jiang Ning and Zhang Yuan gave their best displays of the season. Sven Goran Eriksson will have to coax this level of play out of them regularly next year if R&F are to qualify for the ACL.
After the game there was further controversy as Shenhua keeper Wang blasted an un-named team-mate in an after match interview. “Some people are not responsible to the team or the fans, just watch the news in two days time you will see.” No names were singled out but Wang went on to say that the fans were not stupid and that anyone who watched the game could see a particular individual had not given 100%. He later retracted his remarks, but it would appear the damage has already been done and it will be intriguing to find out what comes of his outburst.
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