Shanghai East Asia returned to winning ways against Changchun Yatai at Shanghai Stadium on Saturday afternoon, thanks to a 6th minute strike from Wang Jiayu. The game was far from a straightforward affair for the home side, however, and Changchun will be left cursing their luck, having failed to convert a succession of promising second-half opportunities into goals. This was in no small part down to the outstanding Yan Junling between the sticks for Shanghai. The young ‘keeper’s performances have been just one of a number of reasons why East Asia fans have been celebrating this year, although Saturday’s accomplished display was certainly his finest of the current campaign.
CHINESE SUPER LEAGUE ROUND 6
Shanghai East Asia 1
Wang Jiayu 6′
Changchun Yatai 0
While the recent goal drought continued for the 7-goal pairing of Wu Lei and Tobias Hysen, the pair again put in industrious and energetic shifts, and combined to start the move that led to Wang Jiayu’s early goal. Hysen’s neat flick on after a high ball from Fu Huan found Wu 40 yards from goal and facing two Changchun defenders. Skipping inside the covering Zhang Xiaofei, Wu’s incisive through ball evaded 5 opponents to find Wang arriving in the penalty area. The midfielder only needed one touch before calmly slotting past the diving Song Zhenyu.
The goal brought about a palpable sense of relief around Shanghai Stadium following last week’s shutout at Henan Yatai. However, the visitors responded well, and could have equalised were it not for the tireless work of centre back Ransford Addo. The Ghanaian made several vital clearances over the course of the game, and was called in to action after only 10 minutes, reacting swiftly to deal with Fatos Bećiraj’s pivoted shot. Yatai grew stronger; with midfield talisman Eninho pulling strings and presenting a continuous source of danger going forward, and it took a fine diving save from Yan Junling to keep him out midway through the first half.
After this early flurry of activity, the game grew tighter – Cai Huikang and Wang Jiajie working hard in the centre of the pitch to negate the away side’s forays forward. Both sides committed a string of fouls throughout this midfield battle, which meant that meaningful first half chances were limited. Tobias Hysen had an appeal for a penalty turned down by an apparently indecisive referee, and nearly doubled the home side’s advantage with a 43rd minute free kick, which was well saved by Song.
Despite an evenly matched first half, the home side endured a nervy second period, as Changchun pushed for an equaliser. Clearly mindful of the pitfalls of pushing too high up and being hit on the counter attack, East Asia dropped deeper as the game wore on, inviting pressure upon themselves, and ensuring a tense final 30 minutes. Nonetheless, they still found themselves with opportunities to go further ahead – captain Wang Shenchao’s 180-degree spin and hit from 10 yards early in the second half bouncing back off the bar with Song beaten.
Shanghai goalkeeper Yan Junling’s busy afternoon continued soon after, as the young stopper dropped instinctively to parry Matias Iglesias’ powerful diving header from a long range Eninho free kick. The goalkeeper flapped slightly at the first attempt at recovering the loose ball, but gathered comfortably on the second attempt. Yan was forced into action just minutes later, producing another superb diving stop, this time keeping out the newly introduced Rafael Coelho’s header after Lv Jianjun’s cross. This marked a period of ascendency for Changchun, and Yan’s reflexes were tested again moments later; pouncing to stop another Coelho header. Li Xiaoting’s shot from the rebound flew over the prone ‘keeper, only to come back off the crossbar – much to the relief of the increasingly anxious East Asia faithful.
East Asia did have openings of their own, however, as Wu Lei yet again split the Changchun defence open with an inch-perfect through ball for Daniel McBreen. The Australian international’s first touch was too heavy, however – taking him to his left and away from goal, meaning his subsequent shot required only a routine stop from the veteran Changchun goalkeeper.
With fifteen minutes to go, Shanghai saw arguably their best chance of extending their lead go to waste. A fast paced East Asia counter attack had Wu Lei bursting down the right hand side, before squaring to the supporting Hysen, who controlled well, but was unable to chip the ball enough to clear the incoming Song. Shanghai hearts were in mouths once more immediately afterwards, as Yan Junling expertly denied yet another Coelho header at the back post.
East Asia should have sealed the victory with little over 2 minutes of normal time remaining; Hysen unable to get the strength required into his shot after Song had kept out Wu Lei’s shot at the right hand post. Ultimately though, the scores remained as they were, and Shanghai held on for a valuable 3 points to keep them in touch with the top of the table. Xi Zhikang will be pleased to have maintained their 100% home record this season, although he will be hoping for a less nerve-wracking performance next time out at Dalian Aerbin.
Shanghai East Asia: 1 Yan Junling; 25 Ransford Addo, 21 Ibán Javier Cuadrado, 4 Wang Shenchao, 23 Fu Huan, 7 Wu Lei (89′ – 14 Li Shenglong), 20 Wang Jiayu, 5 Wang Jiajie (67′ – 3 Wu Yuyin), 6 Cai Huikang, 9 Tobias Hysen, 36 Daniel McBreen.
Changchun Yatai: 29 Song Zhenyu; 2 Wang Wanpeng, 5 Anzur Ismailov, 8 Eninho, 9 Fatos Bećiraj (61 ‘ – 11 Rafael Coelho), 12 Lv Jianjun, 17 Matias Walter Iglesias, 18 Li Xiaoting, 20 He Chao (69′ – 14 Cao Tianbao), 21 Liu Weidong (82’ – 16 Jiang Zhe), 23 Zhang Xiaofei.