Shanghai East Asia’s indifferent form away from home continued on Sunday, as they fought their way back to a 1-1 draw at Dalian Aerbin. The home side were unrecognisable from that which surrendered so tamely to Shanghai Shenhua only last weekend.
CHINESE SUPER LEAGUE ROUND 7
Dalian Aerbin 1
Bruno Meneghel (PK) 11′
Shanghai East Asia 1
Wang Shenchao 31′
A Bruno Meneghel penalty after just 11 minutes put the home side in front, following a failed clearance by East Asia defender Ransford Addo, who was adjudged to have used his hand in the process. Shanghai drew level through captain Wang Shenchao’s 31st minute header, and despite some promising opportunities presenting themselves to both sides, neither could make the decisive breakthrough.
After all the talk in the week of Wu Lei’s injury potentially keeping the star out of the fixture, Xi Zhikang surprised many by naming the 22-year-old in his line-up, which also included the recently returned Lv Wenjun. The winger took the place of Wang Jiajie in the side, and was pushed out to the right wing, with Wang Jiayu moving into a more central midfield role. It was perhaps this switch that allowed Dalian to start the game heavily on the front foot, as East Asia struggled to escape the confines of their own half within the first 15 minutes. The diminutive Bruno Meneghel was key to this early dominance, and almost put his team ahead after just 2 minutes with a curling free kick from the edge of the box that glanced just wide of Yan Junling’s left post.
Aerbin grew stronger as East Asia’s stuttering start continued, and their early supremacy paid off in the 9th minute, after Ransford Addo’s mistimed header and handball from a Sun Bo cross. In fairness, the ball bounced just in front of the Ghanaian defender, meaning his lunge towards the ball took him off balance. The player twisted his body awkwardly in order to make contact with the ball, but could not prevent it from making contact with the top of his arm as he did so. At full speed, the decision seemed harsh – replays show the referee probably made the right call, though this will be of little comfort to frustrated East Asia fans and players.
Meneghel, who had been waiting to pounce on Sun’s cross, dispatched the resulting penalty with confidence – the force of the ball taking it beyond the fingertips of Yan Junling.
Going down 1-0 appeared to give East Asia the impetus they required, and the visitors worked their way back into the game, although without the requisite bite to immediately peg Dalian back. Daniel McBreen found himself with time and space outside the box after 15 minutes, but his shot fizzled past Zhang Chong’s far post without really threatening. Tobias Hysen went close shortly after, following a clever interchange with Lv Wenjun, although his shot also failed to test the Aerbin ‘keeper.
The hosts still looked rather comfortable, however, and looked the more likely team to find the net, until a 30th minute Wang Jiayu free kick from the left touchline found the head of Wang Shenchao lurking at the back post. The captain’s run was tracked by Zhu Xiaogang, but the Dalian defender misjudged the bounce of the ball, which looped over his head, and neatly on to that of Wang, who applied the finish.
Having made their way back into the game, East Asia seemed to grow in confidence, pressing further up the field, while at the same time still looking vulnerable to the pace and intelligent inter-play of Meneghel, Yu Dabao and Yu Hanchao. The front three crafted numerous tidy passages of play, although some wasteful finishing, along with tireless work of Wang Shenchao and a couple of accomplished last-minute clearances from Addo, kept the two sides level at half time.
Whatever head coach Ma Lin had said to his players during the interval must have had some impact, as Aerbin came flying out at the start of the second half. Dalian com close once more, as Yu Hanchao’s excellent control and layoff to Zhao Honglve was blocked in timely fashion by Ibán Cuadrado.
Nevertheless, Shanghai pulled themselves back into the contest, and as the second half developed, seemed to be the side with the greater opportunities to find a winner. In fact the reds probably should have gone ahead on the hour mark. Lv Wenjun worked tirelessly to deliver a cross that was flicked on by Hysen, and met by Wu Lei, who, leaping for the ball, could only fire at the goalkeeper. This was one of a number of chances that fell to East Asia, as Hysen saw a goal disallowed for offside, and Lv Wenjun dispatched a shot inches wide shortly after.
Dalian were still very much in the game, however, and Eat Asia fans were left with hearts in mouths as both Yu Dabao and later Meneghel were just a fraction away from tipping the balance. McBreen and Hysen both had chances too, though in the end neither side could do enough to snatch the 3 points.
East Asia were much-improved in the second half, as Lv Wenjun and Wu Lei found themselves with much more time on the ball, deeper into Aerbin territory. Nonetheless, Wu was uncharacteristically quiet – a concern inevitably brought about by the midfielder’s lingering injury. What surprised most was Xi Zhikang’s reluctance to use a single substitute throughout the course of the 90 minutes. With Wu visibly not at his best and East Asia running out of ideas late on, fans will be concerned by the coach’s lack of faith in his bench.
Dalian, it has to be said, were impressive, showing signs that finally things may be starting to come together after their unflattering start to the season. Despite only taking a point, the home side will be encouraged by their propensity to create chances – something they must utilise again as they travel to Guangzhou R&F next week. For East Asia, it’s back to Shanghai, in preparation for the second Shanghai derby of the campaign at home to Shenhua.
Dalian Aerbin: 1 Zhang Chong; 3 Niklas Backman, 4 Li Xuepeng, 5 Jin Pengxiang, 8 Lv Peng (78′ – 10 Chen Tao), 6 Zhu Xiaogang, 20 Yu Hanchao (68′ – 12 Zhou Tong), 29 Sun Bo, 22 Yu Dabao, 7 Zhao Honglve, 11 Bruno Meneghel.
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, 6 Cai Huikang, 11 Lv Wenjun, 9 Tobias Hysen, 36 Daniel McBreen.