CHINESE SUPER LEAGUE ROUND 1
Jiangsu Sainty 0
Guizhou Renhe 0
High-profile signing Dejan Damjanovic missed a golden chance late in the game in Nanjing, as Guizhou Renhe managed to escape with a point against a much improved Jiangsu Sainty side.
Having gained a reputation for dull, uninspiring play, Jiangsu took the field in a new 3-5-2 formation and used their strength in midfield numbers to recycle possession well and maintain a measure of control throughout.
However, it was only in the 84th minute that their best opportunity of the match would come, with Damjanovic heading over unmarked from the centre of the penalty area. Guizhou ‘keeper Zhang Lie was also forced into a fine save from Brazilian forward Elias who came close to a stunning debut goal, with the game ultimately ending scoreless.
It is Jiangsu manager Gao Hongbo, though, who will be considerably the more pleased with what he saw from his side. Jiangsu varied play well against a Guizhou team deprived of both Zlatan Muslimovic and Zvjezdan Misimovic, utilising both patient midfield build-up and more direct balls aimed at Damjanovic.
However, the game could have headed in a very different direction from the start, with 21-year-old defender Li Ang appearing to foul Brazilian winger Hyuri in the area after just five minutes. The incident, though, was quickly dismissed by the referee.
It was a match of relatively little goalmouth action in the first-half, with neither team showing the required quality in the final third. Indeed, the best chance of the opening half fell to Jiangsu right wing-back Zhou Yun who found space at the far-post from a cross but could only find the side-netting.
The pace and directness of Sun Ke, used as a central striker, was proving a major threat for the Guizhou defence, but some generous refereeing saw a typically boisterous Sun Jihai escape without a yellow card despite cynical fouls on several occasions. Jiangsu, too, were perhaps guilty of playing with an overly cautious mindset in the early stages.
The introduction of Brazilian Elias early in the second-half, though, swung the game in the hosts’ favour. The former Botafogo man showed a creative side to play through an offside Damjanovic into a scoring position, before seeing a viciously struck volley well saved by Zhang Lie. The goalkeeper also saved well from a well-struck Deng Zhuoxiang free-kick.
Elias was once more involved in what proved to be the best move of the game late on, splitting the defence to find Zhou Yun on the right whose excellent cross picked out an unmarked Damjanovic eight yards out. The Montenegrin’s header, though, flew narrowly over the bar.
Gao Hongbo expressed satisfaction after the final whistle, praising his side for their quick adaptation to his desired style of play. Sainty, though, could have come away with more for their efforts with a little more ambition in the early stages.
With a difficult opening set of fixtures, Jiangsu cannot afford to let too many opportunities pass them by, but the combination work of Sun Ke, Elias and Damjanovic will have pleased supporters.
A home tie with Harbin in a fortnight’s time will be their next outing, while Guizhou host Western Sydney Wanderers in the AFC Champions League on Wednesday.
Jiangsu Sainty: (3-5-2): 26-Guan Chen; 3-Eleilson, 6-Roda Antar, 2-Li Ang; 5-Zhou Yun (58′ 11 Elias), 24-Ji Xiang; 22-Wu Xi, 8-Liu Jianye, 16-Deng Zhuoxiang; 10-Dejan Damjanovic, 20-Sun Ke.
Guizhou Renhe: (4-3-3) 12-Zhang Lie; 23-Rao Weihui (91′ 14-Yang Yihu), 17-Sun Jihai, 4-Jonas Salley, 3-Zhang Chenglin; 23-Xavier Chen, 7-Krzysztof Maczynski、8-Li Chunyu; 11- Hyuri (85′ 15-Chen Jie), 21-Yu Hai (92’ 6-Fan Yunlong), 39-Chen Zijie.