Montenegrin striker Dejan Damjanović’s controversial 33rd minute goal was all that separated Jiangsu Sainty and Shanghai East Asia on Sunday evening, as the hosts ground out a 1-0 victory over their Yangtze Delta rivals. Jiangsu were made to withstand wave after wave of pressure in the second period, without ever really being genuinely threatened, and ultimately held on to their slender lead.
CHINESE SUPER LEAGUE ROUND 13
Jiangsu Sainty 1
Dejan Damjanović 33′
Shanghai East Asia 0
The visitors started the game without two of their brightest attacking talents, as Wang Jiayu was forced to miss out having picked up 4 yellow cards already this season, whilst Wu Lei did not even travel with the squad to Zhenjiang – instead recuperating in Shanghai from his persistent injury troubles. The two absentees were sorely missed, as East Asia struggled to find any attacking rhythm inside the first 45 minutes. Indeed, Lin Chuangyi – in for Wu Lei on the right wing, was also carrying an injury, and thus was unable to make any meaningful impact on the game, before being replaced after an hour.
The first half was certainly not a memorable one for East Asia, as Jiangsu took the game to their guests from the very first whistle; Ji Xiang forcing a reflex save from the impressive Yan Junling – who did all he could to erase the memories of the previous week’s costly errors at Shandong. The reds continued to sit back and invite pressure upon themselves, which Sainty gratefully capitalised on as they peppered Yan’s goal to minimal response inside the first 20 minutes, with Ji again forcing another fine stop from the Shanghai ‘keeper.
The sporadic moments in which East Asia did manage to get forward were easily dealt with by the home side. Lv Wenjun’s 30-yard drive after 20 minutes was their best chance of the half (and arguably the game), and this very much summed up his side’s evening, as they were restricted to little more than pot shots – and shots of any variety were at a premium.
At the other end, the defence continued to look ill at ease, and a combination of disorganisation and a lack of communication almost cost them after 29 minutes, as Yan and Ibán Cuadrado both jumped for the same ball, which sent it flying towards goal, and forced Yan to backtrack and hurriedly bundle it out to safety.
Only moments later, more disorganisation – coupled with the linesman’s reluctance to raise his flag – caused East Asia to slip behind. As Sainty broke from their own half, with Fu Huan out of position, centre back Ransford Addo was drawn upfield to challenge Sun Ke out on the left wing. With Jiangsu players rushing ahead in support, Addo attempted to track back but Sun’s through ball evaded both the Ghanian, and his defensive partner Cuadrado to find Dejan Damjanović at the head of the Jiangsu attack. With more than just a suspicion of offside, the East Asia back line flung their arms up in protest – all to no avail – while Damjanović finished the move off with a sumptuous chip which Yan, despite getting a hand to the ball, was unable to prevent finding the back of the net.
Yan was forced to make yet another excellent stop following a powerful Eleílson header from a Jiangsu corner late in the first half, and there was just time for another hopeful long-range East Asia drive – this time courtesy of Wang Jiajie – before the referee drew a disappointing first period to a close.
Whatever was said in the visitor’s changing room at half time must have had some impact, as East Asia looked a different side at the beginning of the second half. Fu Huan in particular made a number of excellent runs down the right wing, and came close to providing an equaliser early on, as his cross to Daniel McBreen was flicked on to Lv Wenjun. However, as proved to be the order of the night, his shot sailed harmlessly wide.
Lv continued to look lively, as did Fu down the right hand side, however, for all their second half possession and territory, the visitors were barely capable of getting a shot off throughout the rest of the half, as Jiangsu continued to soak up pressure. Eleílson in particular used his considerable height and strength to halt the East Asian attacking line in their tracks. Xi Zhikang’s side were to remain frustrated, and as the second half – comprised chiefly of short passes around the Jiangsu area, without any resulting shots – drew to a close, East Asia never really looked like making their mark on the game.
All in all, a disappointing night for East Asia players, staff, and fans alike. Without their two creative midfielders in Wang Jiayu and Wu Lei, the reds struggled to find any incisiveness, and for all their possession and positivity in the second 45 minutes, in the end they just could not find a way through the stubborn Jiangsu defence.
It should be noted that ex-East Asia boss Gao Hongbo would have been more than a little familiar with his opponents’ strengths and weaknesses, and evidently succeeded in restricting the former, whilst exploiting the latter. Nonetheless, with McBreen only joining towards the end of last season, and with new signing Tobias Hysen in the side, some may have expected a more lethal performance from the less-familiar attacking pair, particularly given their highly impressive recent form. Attentions now turn towards Wednesday night’s rescheduled meeting with Harbin Yiteng back at Shanghai Stadium, in what has now become a must-win, if dreams of achieving an ACL spot are to be kept alive.
Jiangsu Sainty: 1 Deng Xiaofei; 22 Wu Xi, 3 Eleílson, 2 Li Ang, 23 Ren Hang, 24 Ji Xiang (41′ – 7 Zhang Xinlin), 8 Liu Jianye, 16 Deng Zhuoxiang (68′ – 9 Lu Bofei), 6 Roda Antar (62′ – 5 Zhou Yun), 20 Sun Ke, 10 Dejan Damjanović.
Shanghai East Asia: 1 Yan Junling; 25 Ransford Addo, 21 Ibán Cuadrado, 4 Wang Shenchao, 23 Fu Huan, 5 Wang Jiajie, 15 Lin Chuangyi (63′ – 12 Li Haowen), 6 Cai Huikang, 11 Lv Wenjun, 9 Tobias Hysen, 36 Daniel McBreen.