Gio Moreno was the hero of Hongkou once again as he scored a goal in each half to bring Shenhua a thoroughly deserved victory against a under-par Dalian Aerbin side.
The result saw Sergio Bastita grab victory in only his second game back since his return to the Shenhua hotseat, in a game where a much more positive tactical gameplan compared with his predecessor Shen Xiangfu, paid off.
The match was an open ended one with most of the action being in Aerbin’s half. Ironically, the very first words uttered by the match commentors’ in the highlights reel say Moreno’s performances so far this season are nowhere near as good as last season. Moreno wasted no time in attempting to reverse this perception – a shot taken from near the half way line just ten seconds or so after kick-off went close to Aerbin keeper Zhang Chong’s net.
CHINESE SUPER LEAGUE ROUND 6
Shanghai Shenhua 2
Moreno 16′, 74′
Dalian Aerbin 0
Shenhua asserted their superiority early on getting the better of the opening exchanges. In the 17th minute, Moreno advanced into the Aerbin half, and fed Cao Yunding in the middle of the pitch. The Shanghainese playmaker then threaded a nice ball back into the path of Moreno, who held off evaded a challenge to slot the ball neatly home.
In the 20th minute, a ruckus broke out when Aerbin’s Li Xuepeng appeared to catch Luis Ruiz’s foot with a late tackle. It looked worse than it actually was, and Moreno took exception to Li and pushing and shoving ensued.
Ruiz was involved in the action again in the 29th minute, breaking free on the right to unleash a low shot from a tight angle which flew wide of the post by a foot or so. Aerbin had plenty of possession but looked completely out of ideas going forward and were mainly restricted to wild shots from distance – Yu Hanchao’s effort being one such example on the half hour mark. Shenhua had more accurate and regular efforts, but none really got close to adding to the scoreline.
In the second half, Moreno and Xu Liang both came very close with almost identical free-kicks within 10 minutes of each other which curled just wide of the post. By this point, Aerbin looked totally out of the game despite being only a goal behind – there was never any feeling that the visitors would sneak back in. Their best chance came in the 61st minute when Sun Bo curled an excellent ball to the bar post, but Brazilian stiker Bruno Meneghel could only fluff his header.
The second goal finally game in the 74th minute, with Cao Yunding again instrumental. After some good work from the midfielder on the right of the box, he sent over an inviting cross which the defence could only clear as far to an unmarked Moreno at the edge of the box. With time and space abundant, the crowd were expectant; the Columbian disappointed no-one with an emphatic finish to cap a fine performance from both himself and the home side.
Before the final whistle there was time for Xu Liang to go close with another free-kick, and for Bai Jiajun to narrowly fail to score after making a forward run to capitalize on a sloppy backpass in the dying seconds of the match, but the pint-sized fullback’s shot went just wide, and the ref called time on an entertaining match, 2-0 Shenhua.
Voices (including that of your correspondent) doubting the wisdom of bringing back Batista to coach Shenhua were silenced with the result and performance. Despite Shen Xiangfu’s points-per-match ratio being slightly better than his Argentinean sucessor/predecessor, Batista’s Shenhua plays much more attractive football. Plus it can be argued that Shen inhereited a winning team. Batista’s return is a good thing for Shenhua at least as yet another short-term measure as the club adjusts to having new owners.
Performance-wise, apart from an outstanding show from Moreno who was all over the pitch tackling, pressing and generally in the thick of the action, there was another bright point in the showing of Cao Yunding. Easily one of the most talented locals in the team, he was tipped by in the past to be one to watch. However his performance last season was very poor and he looked to have lost his way. Recently though, starting the last two games and playing this game from start to finish (a rarity for him) are a good sign, and some assists and vital plays are all signs that he may yet fulfil his potential to be a key player this season.
Aerbin were a massive disappointment. For a team packed with Chinese national team talent such as Yu Hanchao and Yu Dabao, as well as solid foreign imports such as Swedish interntional defender Backman, and proven CSL goalscorer Meneghel, the outfit lacked any kind of cutting edge or cohesion. Indeed, Dalian only managed one shot on target all game.
Your correspondent tipped the Dongbei side to do well this season, however that may have been a kiss of death as the result of this game saw Shenhua move three points clear of Aerbin into 8th position.
The result leaves both teams heading in opposite directions in both the table and geographically in their next game – Dalian return north to host Shanghai East Asia on Sunday, whilst for Shenhua its a trip south to face Guangzhou Evergrande on Saturday.
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