The red and blue halves of Shanghai were made to settle for a draw on Saturday afternoon in a fiery encounter at Shanghai Stadium. Despite the miserable weather conditions across the city, over 23,000 fans turned up to witness a passionate derby, which will be remembered as much for the two red cards shown in injury time, as Daniel McBreen’s perfectly executed first-half volley.
CHINESE SUPER LEAGUE ROUND 8
Shanghai East Asia 1
Daniel McBreen 22′
Shanghai Shenhua 1
Xu Liang 36′
McBreen’s excellent finish put the home side in front, although their lead was to last only 15 minutes, as Xu Liang’s deep free kick somehow made it’s way untouched through a cluster of both Shenhua and East Asia players and hit the back of the net.
With the downpour taking it’s toll on the increasingly drenched pitch, the ball skimmed across the surface – as did a number of full blooded challenges from players on both sides. This came to a head in the final minutes of the game, when substitute Yang Shiyuan was sent off for a reckless and dangerous foul on Gio Moreno. In the furore that ensued, Bai Jiajun also saw red, having sprinted over to the offending Yang and shoved him to the ground.
East Asia began the game with the same side that drew away at Aerbin in round 7. Shenhua, meanwhile, made one change from the team that faced Guangzhou Evergrande, as Firas Al Khatib came in for Luis Carlos Ruiz up front. The visitors improvements under the stewardship of Sergio Batista were once again evident, as Shenhua began the game in lively fashion. Cao Yunding came close to putting Shenhua ahead after only 5 minutes, as Ibán Cuadrado’s wayward pass to Cai Huikang was picked up by Xu Liang. Xu fed the ball through to Cao, who was allowed too much time and space to shoot from 25 yards out. Fortunately for the hosts, his shot flew past Yan Junling’s right hand post, though this served as a warning of what was to come, as East Asia persistently found themselves guilty of not closing down Shenhua players outside the penalty area.
The home side did show some flashes of promise going forward, however, as they sought to put pressure on a notoriously shaky Shenhua defence. Wu Lei drew an important stop from Geng Xiaofeng as East Asia countered, while Yan Junling was also kept busy, thanks to the ever-impressive Gio Moreno. His neat take-down and shot from a long free kick forced Yan to make a dramatic save to prevent the ball from squeezing in under the bar.
Despite the visitors more dangerous attempts on goal, it was East Asia who took the lead, as Daniel McBreen opened his 2014 CSL goalscoring account in sublime style. Wang Jiayu’s long, high ball towards Tobias Hysen was poorly cleared by Paulo André; his header bouncing kindly just in front of the Australian, who watched the ball all the way onto his left foot before unleashing a thunderous volley into the top left corner. The forward celebrated his 37th birthday in midweek, and this was the perfect way to celebrate – that it also brought about his first goal of the season gave him all the more reason to savour the moment.
Nonetheless, East Asia continued to allow Shenhua to attack, sitting off and allowing the likes of Moreno and Al Khatib to run at them. In fact it was only thanks to another great display of last minute defending from Ransford Addo that the reds did not suffer more severely. Despite these nervy moments at the back, they remained positive in attack, and McBreen nearly doubled his goal tally, after Tobias Hysen’s neat drag back found him on the edge of the area. McBreen lashed a right-footed drive towards goal, but Geng was equal to it, pushing it out to his left.
However, just two minutes later, Shenhua were back in the game, as Xu Liang whipped in a free kick from wide on the right, which inexplicably flew past everybody on the six-yard line, including right back Fu Huan, who appeared well-placed to deal with the loose ball.
The Away View (By Andrew White)
A result that most Shenhua fans would happily have taken before kickoff ended up feeling like two points lost, as the away side dictated proceedings and crafted the better chances. That said, their only goal was again a set piece, and the team were indebted to several smart saves from an improving Geng Xiaofang – finally proving some degree of worth in the shadow of Wang Dalei. An energetic first half would have left the casual observer wondering which of the teams were recently topping the table, or indeed which were the home side, given the respective performances on pitch and in stand. Shenhua seemed keener to the tackle, cheered on by an as-ever sizable away following in a Shanghai downpour, but as they got into their stride East Asia showed a degree more quality on the ball – a precision in the final third that the away side have lacked all season.
That difference in quality was exemplified by Daniel McBreen, who finished excellently from distance for the opener, but Shenhua refused to buckle – the route back into the game being yet another inspired set-piece from Xu Liang. It’s rather worrying how reliant the team are on such deliveries – neither Firas Al-Khatib, starting here for the first time since Batista’s return to the helm, nor Luis Ruiz seem geared up to make the lone striker role their own. Firas’ preternatural ability to keep hold of the ball is quite remarkable, but can mean a conservative approach when it comes to trying something special – which is usually what’s required when ploughing a lone furrow and heavily outnumbered. Ruiz meanwhile has the close control of Wayne Rooney after a particularly heavy after-hours session – the ball pinging off him in all manner of angles. Gao Di continues to look a very worthwhile addition to ranks as an auxiliary forward, repeatedly finding space in dangerous positions, and was unlucky not to score when foiled by an excellent Yan Junling save. As the rain continued to hammer down, it was Shenhua who pushed harder for the winner, but as so often this season the final ball was lacking. The handbags that ended the match were laughed off in the away end – Yang Shiyuan’s shocking tackle being rightfully red-carded, but Bai Jiajun can look back on one of the most pointless sendings-off ever witnessed – continued altercation with the official seeing him sent to the stands just as the last kick of the game was taken.
Shenhua have a habit of turning in better performances against the better teams, but ending with little to show for it – Saturday’s point was an improvement, but if they can move towards similar showings against inferior opposition the season ahead will have a very different complexion.
With the visitors level and the rain failing to let up, the contest remained fierce, as tempers frayed and clashes became more frequent. Gao Di somehow escaped punishment for an ugly challenge on the fired-up McBreen, much to the obvious displeasure of Xi Zhakang on the touchline.
East Asia, who have tended to play much brighter football in the second 45 minutes of late, were unusually slow to start the second half, and were put under immense pressure by the intelligent play of Moreno and Al Khatib. Indeed Moreno appeared to be singled out for some heavy handed challenges from several East Asia players, not least McBreen, who picked up a booking for cynically leaving a trailing leg out to trip the Columbian. This didn’t stop the number 10, however, as he crafted chances for Shenhua again and again.
In response, Xi Zhikang replaced Hysen with 20 year-old Li Haowen, who appeared lively, if ineffectual. McBreen remained the home side’s best chance of snatching a winner, however his attempted volley from Wang Shenchao’s nod down could not live up to his first, as the striker blazed over. The forward found himself unmarked from Lv Wenjun’s in-swinging corner shortly after, but couldn’t direct his header goalwards.
Moreno again came agonisingly close to tipping the balance – East Asia once more allowing Shenhua far too much time and space outside their own area – as his curling shot from 30 yards out flew just past the outstretched Yan Junling to safety. McBreen also did his best to find a winner, but his long range lob was unable to drop the right side of the crossbar.
Tensions finally erupted in the fourth minute of injury time, after Yang Shiyuan, who had only just come on for Wang Jiayu, produced an appalling tackle on Moreno, which sent the midfielder flying. Bai Jiajun’s reaction was to do the same to Yang, and sprinted over to the substitute, before pushing him to the turf. This instigated somewhat of a ruckus, featuring the majority of both sets of players – all set against the backdrop of the fierce support from both the home and equally sizeable away fans. Both players saw red for their indiscretions, and the game ended with tensions still running high.
Shenhua will undoubtedly be happy with their performance and the point to go with it, although with some excellent chances to seal an important win, will presumably be slightly disappointed not to have extended their winning streak against their city rivals. East Asia on the other hand, can be pleased to have avoided defeat, but will also be unhappy at being unable to find a way past Shenhua’s suspect defence. Moreover, they must address the cavernous amounts of space allowed to Shenhua when defending immediately, if they are to get anything from their next two tricky away games to both Guangzhou sides.
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 (90′ – 27 Yang Shiyuan), 6 Cai Huikang, 11 Lv Wenjun (78′ – 13 Zheng Dalun), 9 Tobias Hysen (69′ – 12 – Li Haowen), 36 Daniel McBreen.
Shanghai Shenhua: 1 Geng Xiaofeng; 6 Li Wenbo, 5 Byung-Kuk Cho, 13 Paulo André, 12 Bai Jiajun, 28 Cao Yunding, 36 Wang Shouting, 20 Xu Liang, 10 Gio Moreno, 18 Gao Di, 11 Firas Al Khatib.