Shanghai East Asia tasted defeat for the first time this season in what turned out to be a thoroughly frustrating evening for the league leaders, away at Henan Jianye. Despite dominating possession and having far more opportunities on goal, the visitors finishing touch – which had seen them net 9 times in their first 4 games – simply eluded them.
Henan Jianye 1
R. Johnson 85′
Shanghai East Asia 0
East Asia notched up 15 attempts on goal to Henan’s 3, but could not find a way past Zhou Yajun in goal for the hosts. Wu Lei produced another excellent energetic display, and was at the heart of the majority of Shanghai’s attacking play, but was let down by some poor finishing by his colleagues. As East Asia frantically went in search of a winner, Henan remained patient; finally making the breakthrough after substitute Ryan Johnson’s expertly taken goal. The visiting side were the architects of their own downfall, however – controlling the game but lacking the wherewithal to seize the initiative.
Henan made two changes to the side that drew at Shenhua last week; Xu Yang replacing Xiao Zhi in midfield, whilst Nando Rafael stepped in for Ryan Johnson up front. East Asia, meanwhile, stuck with the same personnel that had brought them success in their last two outings, and began the game in explosive fashion – Henan barely able to make it into opposition territory within the first 10 minutes. Fu Huan threatened as he overlapped Wang Jiayu on the right wing, although it was Wu Lei who caused the biggest problems for Jianye, and came agonisingly close to putting Shanghai ahead inside the first minute. Cai Huikang charged down and dispossessed Mirahmetjan Muzepper in midfield, and, taking the loose ball onwards, Wu struck a fierce shot at goal, which deflected just enough off the challenge of Yin Hongbo to see it past the post.
Wu continued to impress, running 40 yards to collect Wang Shenchao’s long ball down the left flank and play it through to teammate Tobias Hysen in front of him. The striker recovered after an awkward first touch, but having found himself in space on the edge of the area, pulled his shot well wide with his left foot. Wu shone time and again on the left wing, and midway through the first half, put Daniel McBreen through with a precise exchange between the two, following another bursting run past Henan defender Gu Cao. For the second time, however, Shanghai’s superb build up play was not matched by the finish, as McBreen could not get a shot off in time before Li Lei’s diving challenge blocked his path.
From here, Henan started to edge their way back into the game. Although East Asia still controlled possession, and spent long periods inside the home side’s half, glimpses of goal became less and less inviting. Despite a number of promising fast-paced counter attacks, Shanghai’s attack became steadily more blunt as the half drew to a close. The visitors began to run out of creative ideas, and long balls up field crept in as they struggled to produce any meaningful openings.
East Asia began the second half much the same as they had the first, and Fu Huan almost put his side in front early on – darting past the covering Marques only to be denied at close range by Zhou. McBreen could only watch in agony as his left footed drive from the resulting rebound flew past the post. Henan faced another narrow escape soon after, as Wu gathered from Wang Jiayu’s looping cross, but was unable to direct his chipped shot goal-wards from an acute angle.
Ryan Johnson replaced Nando Rafael in attack for Henan, which immediately gave the home side a new dimension up front, whereas Shanghai sent on Lin Chuangyi in place of Wang Jiajie, in search of their own fresh attacking impetus. In the 76th minute, East Asia once more exploited the large areas of space out wide, with Wu and Hysen interlinking down the right. Wu was fortunate to receive the ball on the edge of the box as Hysen’s pass bobbled through to him, but his teammate was not so lucky, as the Swedish international swung and missed the resulting loose ball on the six yard line.
Shanghai were growing visibly frustrated at failing to go ahead – none more so than McBreen, who’s booking for an overzealous challenge on Gibril Sankoh (one of several throughout the course of the game) was followed by a green laser being shone in his face from the Henan crowd. Already clearly riled, the Australian flicked a middle finger in the direction of the offending fan – an act which will undoubtedly see him suspended, after a number of similar incidents already in the CSL this year.
McBreen was replaced by Zhu Zhengrong soon after, but East Asia’s frustrations only worsened, as the game eventually witnessed it’s first goal in the 85th minute, thanks to some exceptional work by Henan pair Marques and Johnson. The Brazilian started the move on the left touchline, shrugging off the challenge of Cai Huikang, before cleverly flicking the ball past three Shanghai players and through to Johnson. The Jamaica international still had much to do, but easily turned Ibán Cuadrado and held off the incoming Fu Huan before hammering home with his left foot past the despairing Yan Junling. Shanghai clearly felt aggrieved, as lengthy appeals to the referee – Cai taking a slight knock to the face as Marques dodged his tackle – fell upon deaf ears. Replays, however, show the official made the right call.
The away side were again incapable of breaking through the Henan defence and can only look at themselves in search of answers as to how their usually reliable attack failed to capitalise on over 60% of the possession and a string of promising chances. Whereas Shanghai will be upset at their impotence in the final third, Henan did all that was required of them – closing down the space in the middle of the pitch efficiently enough to stifle the waves of East Asia attacks. With a home game against Changchun up next, Shanghai will doubtless be looking to restore some confidence and get back to winning ways in front of their own fans.
Henan Jianye: 1 Zhou Yajun; 2 Li Lei, 3 Gibril Sankoh, 5 Gu Cao, 6 Tan Wangsong, 11 Nando Rafael (58′ – 9 Ryan Johnson), 14 Huang Xiyang (69′ – 8 Zhang Lu), 18 Xu Yang, 19 Yin Hongbo, 20 Rafael Marques, 40 Mirahmetjan Muzepper.
Shanghai East Asia: 1 Yan Junling; 25 Ransford Addo, 21 Ibán Javier Cuadrado, 4 Wang Shenchao, 23 Fu Huan, 7 Wu Lei, 20 Wang Jiayu, 5 Wang Jiajie (66′ – 15 Lin Chuangyi), 6 Cai Huikang, 9 Tobias Hysen, 36 Daniel McBreen (81′ – 10 Zhu Zhengrong).