Shanghai East Asia hit the road to take on Shandong Luneng on Sunday night, and will be thoroughly satisfied leaving with a point, having come from behind to level proceedings twice. In an open and eventful game, which saw the two sides bag 6 goals between, either team could have feasibly come out on top, although the hosts will certainly be the more frustrated of the two, having dominated possession and had the greater opportunities on goal.
CHINESE SUPER LEAGUE ROUND 12
Shandong Luneng 3
Junior Urso 34′
Vágner Love 68′
Shanghai East Asia 3
Tobias Hysen 28′, 73′
Lv Wenjun 81′
Xi Zhikang reverted to his favoured lineup to take on the side one place above them on goal difference, as Wu Lei returned to the starting formation, having started the previous outing on the bench. However, it was Shandong who looked the most likely to break the deadlock early on, as once again East Asia struggled to settle into the game. South American pair Walter Montillo and Junior Urso in particular posed a persistent danger, pulling strings in the middle of the park and forcing several excellent stops from Yan Junling in goal.
Nonetheless, East Asia started to claw their way back into the game, with efforts from Daneil McBreen and Wu Lei drawing smart saves from Wang Dalei. The visitors proved their savvy in the 28th minute, thanks to the quick thinking of Wang Jiayu and Tobias Hysen. With Shandong players still gathered together on the edge of the penalty area questioning the referee’s decision to award a free kick East Asia’s way, Wang seized the initiative and played a quick ball to Hysen down the left channel, which the striker graciously received and tucked away between the legs of Wang Dalei.
East Asia visibly grew in confidence from this moment, and went close again through the much improved McBreen, who caused problems for the host’s back line all night. Indeed, only an uncharacteristic mistake from the usually reliable Yan in goal allowed Luneng to equalise. Zheng Zheng’s left-footed free kick from the right hand side was curled in towards the young stopper, who was unfortunate enough to spill the ball right into the path of the incoming Junior Urso, who provided the simplest of finishing touches.
Both sides had oppotunities to go in in front at half time, but McBreen’s header was tipped onto the bar by Wang, and Han Peng’s drive from 15 yards breezed just past Yan’s right hand post at the other end immediately afterwards. There was just time for a spot of handbags before the referee blew for the break, as Dai Lin took exception to a perceived high challenge from McBreen in the Shandong area – cue the ritual pushing, shoving and posturing, and a yellow card for the Australian.
The second half began much in the same vein as the first; Shandong enjoying the lion’s share of possession, and East Asia struggling to gain a foothold in the early exchanges. Yan made up for his earlier mistake with another string of composed saves, while the introduction of Vágner Love from the bench applied even more pressure on the Shanghai defence. For twenty minutes, the away side struggled to produce anything of note going forward, as their hosts appeared to demonstrate their superiority. East Asia were restricted to counter-attacking football, a facet of their game which has actually been rather successful this term thanks to the pace of wingers Wu Lei and Lv Wenjun, as well as striker Tobias Hysen. In one such instance, the Shanghai number 9 came agonisingly close to putting his side in front, but having burnt Dai Lin for pace and beaten Wang Dalei, his shot bounced back off the woodwork to safety.
Almost immediately, Shandong moved the ball quickly upfield, utilising the pace and skill of Urso, whose shot rebounded off the post and right into the path of the unmarked Love, lurking on the edge of the 6 yard box, for an easy tap in. The Brazilian was understandably delighted to have put his side ahead against a top-four rival, and was unreserved in celebrating with manager and fellow countryman Cuca, in a show of vociferous support for his somewhat beleaguered boss.
Shanghai did not give up chasing the game, however, and were rewarded for their persistence after Junior Urso’s cross-field ball to Du Wei was poorly controlled by the defender, who was apparently unaware of Lv Wenjun’s presence just behind him. Lv easily dispossessed Du, before sliding a ball square to the arriving Hysen, who fooled Wang by using the outside of his left boot to slot home.
Luneng were not to be halted in their search for 3 points, and had re-taken the lead within 3 minutes of conceding, as Liu Binbin burst down the left wing and drilled a ball across the face of goal. For the second time in the game, Yan Junling made rather a hash of gathering the loose ball, and without ever having it firmly in his grasp, substitute Hao Junmin dispossessed the Shanghai stopper, allowing fellow substitute, Aloisio, to simply roll the ball over the line.
The action wasn’t finished there, as East Asia once more came back, with 10 minutes left on the clock. Fu Huan’s pinpoint cross, following on of his trademark gut-busting runs down the right flank, was met by the head of Lv Wenjun, who’s leap and precise finish belied that of a man of his stature. Both sides went on to push for a winner as the game opened up, and both sets of fans suffered a nervy finish, with chances at both ends spurned.
On reflection, a share of the spoils for both sides seems a fair outcome, although as mentioned, the home side will surely be cursing their inability to hold on to a lead at home, while East Asia will also be left wondering what could have been, having also seen several promising opportunities fall by the wayside. All in all, not a bad result for either side, and more encouragement for Shanghai as they travel to Jiangsu next Sunday, in search of a rare away victory.
Shandong Luneng: 25 Wang Dalei; 6 Zhao Mingjian, 35 Dai Lin, 3 De Wei, 16 Zheng Zheng, 15 Junior Urso, 8 Wang Yongpo, 21 Liu Binbin, 30 Walter Montillo (69′ – 31 Aloisio), 24 – Lv Zheng (46′ – 10 Vágner Love), 9 – Han Peng (74′ – 28 Hao Junmin).
Shanghai East Asia: 1 Yan Junling; 25 Ransford Addo, 21 Ibán Cuadrado, 4 Wang Shenchao, 23 Fu Huan, 7 Wu Lei (56′ – 5 Wang Jiajie), 20 Wang Jiayu (90+2′ – 14 Li Shenglong), 6 Cai Huikang, 11 Lv Wenjun, 9 Tobias Hysen, 36 Daniel McBreen.