CHINESE SUPER LEAGUE ROUND 1
Shanghai Shenxin 0
Shanghai Shenhua 2
Gao Di 29′, 80′
Two predatory set-piece goals from debutant Gao Di were enough for Shenhua to win their fifth consecutive Shanghai Derby, this time with a win over Shanghai Shenxin.
Clear-cut chances were few and far between in a contest between limited sides reluctant to over-commit going forwards, and dead-ball delivery proved decisive. Gao Di’s movement throughout was excellent, and he took his chances well – the opener being Shenhua’s first real sight of goal, and assisted by a Gio Moreno flick-on which dissected a static Shenxin defence.
Several thousand Shenhua fans in yet another change of stadium for Shenxin shifted the atmosphere in favour of the away side, and they were good value for their win having played much the more coherent football. An improved second-half performance saw the introduction of new Colombian striker Luis Carlos Ruiz, who looked a capable and imposing presence after replacing injured countryman Gio Moreno. Cao Yunding also made a solid impact, beginning his season as a man with a point to prove after a disappointing 2013. An attacking trident formed of the two substitutes and the effervescent Firas showed immediate promise, while still lacking the final incisive ball to make their possession count. A new centre-back pairing also looks to have potential – an uncompromising Paulo Andre perhaps a little shell-shocked after his move from Brazil, but Korean Byung-Kuk Cho more assured and playing an organisational role. It remains to be seen how much game-time the two will see together, however, when all foreign attacking options are fit and available.
For Shenxin, it’s difficult to envisage anything but a long, difficult campaign ahead – although for the moment they can point to a number of key players being lost to injury. They enjoyed the better of the chances from open play, created more by Shenhua ineptitude than their own endeavours, but saw them spurned in almost comical fashion by a misfiring strikeforce. Brazilian forward Kieza rounded keeper Geng Xiaofeng, enduring a more difficult Shenhua debut, before being denied by a goal-line clearance. Repeated inability to capitalise on their chances saw confidence visibly drain away as the minutes ticked by, and Gao Di’s second goal merely confirmed the result, as he enjoyed the freedom of the penalty area to head home unmarked from an inch-perfect Xu Liang delivery. Both teams will face sterner tests in the season to come, and both will need to improve to impose themselves on more difficult fixtures.
But for now, Shenhua will take heart from a solid opening performance – with Gao Di already showing that goals can be expected from a wider variety of sources this season, after an over-reliance on lone strikers in recent times.