In-form Guangzhou R&F’s free-scoring ways came to an abrupt halt at Hongkou Stadium last night as they drew 0-0 with Shanghai Shenhua in an uninspiring CSL contest.
Despite having scored more goals in their previous three games (10) than their opponents had done all season (9), R&F, missing top-scorer Abderazak Hamdallah couldn’t find the net against a resolute Shenhua during a match in which both sides barely managed to muster 3 shots on target between them.
CHINESE SUPER LEAGUE ROUND 9
Shanghai Shenhua 0
Guangzhou R&F 0
The visitors started with an unchanged lineup from the weekend’s 3-0 victory over Dalian Aerbin, whilst Shenhua coach Batista rang the changes, bringing in reserve player Fan Jingling in place of suspended leftback Bai Jiajun, sent off in a firey end to the Shanghai Derby. Despite being 24 years old, Fan was playing only his 5th appearance for Shenhua, and first for two years, having spent last year on loan to 3rd division side Jiangxi.
Both sides took a while to get into their stride with neither dominating the opening stages, offering only a few long range inaccurate shots and little else.
Gio Moreno went close in the 11th minute, hitting Xu Liang’s low freekick first time but his shot went wide. Shortly afterwards Moreno was again involved, this time picking out Gao Di with a superb long range pass to the right hand corner of the R&F box. Gao did well to manouvre into a scoring position but his low shot was easily saved by R&F keeper Cheng Yuelei.
Away view – Guangzhou R&F Correspondent Donald Ross
A 0-0 draw was a fair result in a game that will not live long in the memory as it was more stop than start due to the niggling fouls both sides committed.
Playmakers Moreno and Davi attracted their fair share of fouls but it was Shenhua’s Wang Shouting who was particularly guilty of conceding free kicks.
The Cantonese edged the first half with good attacking play from Wang Xiaolong who shrugged off the booing that accompanied his every touch. It was Zhang Yuan though who missed a glorious chance on stroke on half time when he blazed over.
Shenhua came back into the game in the second period and it took until the hour mark for a Davi effort to trouble Geng Xiaofeng in the Shanghai goal. Geng has a quiet night between the posts but should’ve been sent off mid-way through the second half. R&F’s Jang Hyun-Soo knew exactly what he was doing when he ran into Geng’s path to prevent a quick goal kick but the Shanghai stopper also knew exactly what he was doing when he flung an arm into Jang’s face.
At the other end, Cheng Yuelei made a good save from Moreno’s powerful header which was Shenhua’s best chance. As the game entered the closing stages it opened up but R&F couldn’t take advantage as Zhang Shuo and Jiang Ning were largely ineffective in attack and sub Chang Feiya crossed to nobody instead of shooting from a promising position inside the area.
Previously free-scoring, R&F will be concerned about the lack of cutting edge shown here and the injuries to Park Jong-Woo and Zhang Yuan. Sven will hope that top scorer Abderazzak Hamdallah gets off the treatment table to provide an attacking spark before Shanghai East Asia’s visit on Sunday.
R&F had more possession than Shenhua and looked organized, but offered little in the way of clear cut chances. This changed shortly before half-time with the best chance of the match. Wang Xiaolong, who had been taking pelters from the Hongkou crowd as a recent Beijing Guoan midfielder, put in a dangerous low ball from the left, which makeshift Shenhua leftback Fan Jinling made a total hash of clearing, surprising everyone including R&Fs Zhang Yuan who found the ball unexpectedly at his feet and could only sky his shot over the bar when it looked easier to score.
Both teams continued being unable to break each other down, resorting to hopeful snatched shots from distance lacking accuracy, or entertainment value for spectators. Shenhua’s best chance came in the 61st minue – a deft Cao Yunding lob from the corner of the box found Moreno at the far post, but the Columbian headed the ball straight at a well-positioned Cheng Yulei.
In the 73rd minute, Korean fullback Jang Hyun-Soo got the better of Shenhua’s Paulo Andre on the wing and put in a ball which found Lu Lin on the far right. The midfielder took the ball down well but unfortunately for the Guangzhou native his shot flew over the bar into the south terrace.
In the closing stages, Shenhua pushed forward more, eager to avoid drawing a blank at home for the second time in just four home games. However, following a very close set-piece from Xu Liang which sizzled just past the post in the dying moments, Shenhua could not avoid that fate and the spoils were shared. The final whistle was greeted unenthusiastically by the home support, but the team was applauded nevertheless, as fans held up a placards spelling out, partly in Shanghainese, “We only love Shanghai Shenhua” in a thinly-vieled dig at new owners Greenland.
The statistics show R&F had the better of possession with 58%, but could only get one of their 9 shots on target. Shenhua barely fared any better, having the same number of efforts and a mere two on target in what was a very tepid evening for anyone wearing gloves at Hongkou.
Guangzhou R&F boss Sven-Goran Erikson was questioned after the game about having played two games in quick sucession but naming an unchanged side.
“We played very well in our last game against Dalian and I felt that, by yesterday, the players had already recovered. We made two subsitutions in the second half, but even before this I think we played well enough and created chances,” said the Swede, adding that he had been impressed with Shenhua’s backline.
His corresponding number, Batista rued missing the chance to take three points at home, and praised the performance of stand-in left back Fan Jingling.
The Shanghai press focused on the relatively low turnout – 10,753 – describing it as “a little pitiful”. However, no mention was made of the fact that only Shenhua fans can’t enjoy a day off work after their match in this round – all other seven fixtures are played tonight with the May day holiday starting tomorrow.
In a spectacle sharply contrasting to that observed on the field of play, the media did find something worth watching however – the other top headline of the night was “Hongkou beauties in hotpants and black stockings picture special” focusing on female fans at the game. A highlight of the evening, no doubt.
Shenhua travel to Guizhou on Saturday for their next match, whilst R&F host Shanghai East Asia on Sunday night.
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