Wu Lei’s dramatic last minute equaliser saw Shanghai East Asia maintain their undefeated home record, in a storm-soaked 90 minutes fraught with defensive errors. Torrential downpours and unrelenting lightning strikes set the tone for an action-packed night, which saw the hosts fall behind before many people had even taken their seats.
CHINESE SUPER LEAGUE ROUND 16
Shanghai East Asia 3
Tobias Hysén 43′
Wu Lei 79′, 89′
Liaoning Whowin 3
Derick Ogbu 3′, 74′
Wang Bo 66′
Tobias Hysén’s exquisite late first half equaliser sent the sides in to half time level, but some haphazard defending, and an impressive debut performance from Lioaning striker, Derick Ogbu, left East Asia facing a two goal deficit. Having so often been the saviour of the side last season, Wu Lei’s 2014 campaign had been one blighted by injuries and inconsistent performances, but his performance will leave supporters confident of a return to his best. Two excellent late goals spared the blushes of relinquishing their impressive home streak to a side that had not won on the road since last August.
The game started in frantic fashion, as Xi Zhikang’s side went down to a swift Liaoning counterattack. Wu Lei’s attempted pass was picked up by James Chamanga, whose pinpoint through-ball found debutant Ogbu – allowed far too much space between East Asia centre backs, Ibán Cuadrado and Ransford Addo. The new signing’s burst of pace took him easily past Cuadrado, and the forward rounded Yan Junling before calmly slotting home into the empty net.
The home side rallied and steadily increased the pressure throughout the first half, with Hysén and McBreen both spurning promising chances inside the first 15 minutes. At the other end, Ogbu should have doubled his tally; squandering a free header which appeared to be a carbon copy of the goal conceded to Tianjin last week.
As the game developed, Wu Lei built on his lively display last week, with a performance that suggested the midfielder might finally be uninhibited by his well-noted injury problems. East Asia threatened on a number of occasions, but struggled to really test Zhang Lu until Hysén’s spectacular finish two minutes before the break. Wu Lei’s tricky run and deft chip through to Hysén bested Liaoning’s attempted offside trap, and the Swede only needed one touch to find the net in acrobatic style; twisting towards goal and finishing with a superb left footed bicycle kick.
The manner and timing of the goal sent the home fans into half time brimming with excitement, and positive of a second half turnaround. Out on the pitch, however, events didn’t transpire quite as anticipated. Despite starting the second period the brighter of the two sides, the hosts slipped behind again after Yan Junling’s misjudged swipe at a Liaoning corner. The ball found Wang Bo arriving at the back post, and The Liaoning defender was able to evade the oncoming challenge of Lv Wenjun and fire his side ahead.
Things only got worse for East Asia just 8 minutes later, when substitute Imad Khalili found himself caught in possession just inside the Liaoning half. With East Asia’s full backs overcommitting in search of an equaliser, the away side were allowed to counter quickly and ruthlessly once more. Ogbu supplied the ball to Chamanga, who held off the challenges of Addo and Khalili before drilling his shot against the near post. As the Shanghai defence remained in disarray, Ogbu was gifted the simplest of opportunities to double his tally.
With despair creeping in amongst the East Asia players, coaches and fans, it took a fantastic effort from Wu Lei in the final 10 minutes to ensure the hosts were not subjected to an unexpected humbling. His first goal – an excellent solo effort, taking the ball and spinning away from three opposition defenders before driving the ball past Zhang – restored some belief amongst those concerned, and wave after wave of Shanghai attacks thereafter furthered the home crowd’s vociferousness.
Finally, in the 89th minute, frustration turned to tangible relief, as Wu, who showed a delicateness of touch in controlling Khalili’s head down – first with his chest, then his foot – that reminded everyone just how capable of such moments of brilliance the young man is. The calm finish matched the cool control, and East Asia fans breathed a collective sigh of relief as the referee drew proceedings to a close. Despite the spirited comeback, and the return to form of Wu they will nonetheless be disappointed by the defensive frailties on display, with the need for more protection in front of their centre backs wholly evident once again.
East Asia make the short trip to Shanghai Shenxin on Wednesday evening in what now will surely be seen as a must win game, after two easily winnable games in which points have been dropped since the resumption of the league.
Shanghai East Asia: 1 Yan Junling; 23 Fu Huan, 25 Ransford Addo, 21 Ibán Cuadrado, 4 Wang Shenchao, 6 Cai Huikang (72′ – 5 Wang Jiajie), 20 Wang Jiayu, 7 Wu Lei, 11 Lv Wenjun, 9 Tobias Hysén, 36 Daniel McBreen (68′ – 19 Imad Khalili).
Liaoning Whowin: 1 Zhang Lu; 32 Ding Haifeng, 5 Yang Shanping, 27 Wang Bo, 11 Zheng Tao, 26 Yang Chaosheng (76′ – 30 Ni Yusong), 8 Zhang Ye, 9 Zhao Junzhe, 12 James Chamanga, 38 Derick Ogbu (85′ – 28 – Josh Mitchell), 21 – Aleksandar Jevtić (68′ – 40 Ding Jie).