A goal from in-form striker Dong Xuesheng helped a much-changed Guangzhou Evergrande side continue their dominance of the 2014 Chinese Super League season as the reigning champions claimed a 1-0 away victory over Shanghai Shenxin.
CHINESE SUPER LEAGUE ROUND 10
Shanghai Shenxin 0
Guangzhou Evergrande 1
Dong Xuesheng 60′
Man of the Match: Zeng Cheng
Marcello Lippi’s side struggled to cope with their new setup in the first half and were much improved following two early changes at the interval.
The game, though, ended on a sour note for Evergrande with goalscorer Dong carried off with an ankle injury that is set to keep him out of action until the league resumes in mid-July.
Evergrande came into the match in fine form after a run of four consecutive wins but started just a handful of regular first-team members ahead of Tuesday’s AFC Champions League clash with Cerezo Osaka in Japan.
The biggest surprise came in the selection of 19-year-old defender Liu Haidong, who began the game at right-back in a back-four. However, Evergrande would switch to a back-three early in the game, with Mei Fang switching sides with the youngster.
The unfamiliarity of the defensive unit was almost highlighted after just five minutes when Brazilian striker Kieza squared up Mei Fang before firing a shot away which was well saved by goalkeeper Zeng Cheng. It was an early warning for the visitors in a half in which they failed to control the midfield area.
Zeng was immediately called into action once more as he rose high to claim Wang Yun’s in-swinging corner ahead of the onrushing Kieza, before Wang himself shot narrowly wide from 20-yards just minutes later.
Evergrande had moments where they looked like threatening, with Alessandro Diamanti central to their attacking play but rarely came close to a breakthrough. Mei Fang, meanwhile, was forced into an excellent last-ditch challenge to deny young forward Liu Junnan a golden opportunity to open the scoring.
Did you know?
Guangzhou Evergrande league debutant Liu Haidong became the club’s youngest ever player in a CSL game at the age of 19 years and 64 days.
The previous holder was Shewket Yalqun who played aged 19 years and 82 days, with Hu Weiwei third at 19 years and 226 days.
Liu, born in Liaoning, is a former China Under-17 captain and has predominantly played at centre-back at youth level
Shenxin would continue to threaten up until the interval, with Brazilians Jailton Paraiba and Kieza central to their attacking play. For a second week running, Lippi was forced into changes at the interval and his side responded, with replacements Gao Lin and Zhao Xuri central to a much improved performance.
Indeed, it was Gao who was central to the breakthrough. Picking the ball up at the edge of the area, he would carry the ball to the byline before lofting a cross across goal for Dong Xuesheng to bravely head home among a crowd of players. There will be question marks over the defending and goalkeeping to allow him to score, but the former Dalian Aerbin striker continues to prove himself a cunning addition on a free transfer.
Zeng Cheng would make a further double save to deny Kieza, but Evergrande were largely comfortable heading into the final minutes with Rong Hao and Zheng Zhi missing golden chances to double the lead late on.
The game, though, would end on a worrying note as Dong Xuesheng was carried off with a worrying ankle injury after a poor tackle from Ge Zhen, for which he would later apologise on Weibo.
Ge may have been lucky to avoid a red card, but Dong will now spend an extended period on the sidelines although is fortunate that the league will soon break for the World Cup. At present, though, Dong is the unlikely leading Chinese goalscorer this CSL campaign.
That goalkeeper Zeng was undoubtedly Evergrande’s best player on the day says much of the struggle the side faced in claiming three points. Lippi, though, will be delighted to have been able to claim three points while resting most of his key assets for three vital games in the space of ten days.
SHANGHAI SHENXIN: Liu Dianzuo; Lim You-Hwan, Johnny, Ge Zhen, Sun Kai (Xu Wen 46’); Yu Tao (Wu Yizhen 87’), Ye Chongqiu; Jailton Paraiba, Liu Junnan (Yang Jiawei 65’), Wang Yun; Kieza.
GUANGZHOU EVERGRANDE: Zeng Cheng; Liu Haidong, Zhang Linpeng, Liu Jian (Zheng Zhi 62’), Mei Fang; Huang Bowen (Zhao Xuri 46’), Rene Junior, Alessandro Diamanti (Gao Lin 46’); Feng Junyan, Rong Hao, Dong Xuesheng.