Shanghai East Asia fans’ nerves were tested once again at Jinshan Stadium on Wednesday evening, as for the second time in four days the side managed to summon two late goals – just as it seemed hosts Shenxin would hold out for a draw.
CHINESE SUPER LEAGUE ROUND 17
Shanghai Shenxin 1
Peter Utaka 4′ (P.K.)
Shanghai East Asia 3
Daniel McBreen 45′
Imad Khalili 88′
Wu Lei 90’+4
In a performance tinged with more than a hint of a resemblance to their previous outing against Liaoning Whowin, East Asia found themselves a goal down inside the opening five minutes, courtesy of a Peter Utaka penalty. Again mirroring the events of last Sunday, the visitors levelled the tie right on the stroke of half time, through a simple Daniel McBreen header. The second half was one comprised chiefly of frustration for the considerable travelling support, as wave after wave of attack failed to bear fruit. However, a flurry of late activity saw Imad Khalili net his first goal for the club, whilst Wu Lei struck deep into injury time, to seal a confidence-restoring victory.
East Asia made two changes to what is widely regarded as their first XI, as natural centre back Wu Yuyin replaced Fu Huan on the right side of defence, with the aim of shoring up a defence that had conceded 24 goals previous to this encounter, The other change saw Wang Jiayu consigned to the bench against his former club, as Wang Jiajie moved into central midfield alongside Cai Huikang – again aimed at providing more defensive cover.
Despite these changes, however, it took only two minutes for the first defensive error to occur; Ibán Cuadrado pulled out of position as Shenxin forward Jaílton Paraíba slipped between the Spaniard and Wang Shenchao to latch onto Yu Tao’s simple ball over the top. Bearing down on goal, East Asia goalkeeper Yan Junling could only dive and hope for some kind of contact with the ball. This was not to be the case, and although the visitors may feel aggrieved by the fact that Everton’s heavy touch was clearly destined for the touchline, the penalty was unsurprisingly given. Up stepped Shenxin first-timer Utaka, who calmly dispatched the spot kick to put his side in front.
The visitors didn’t panic, however, and pushed on in search of an equaliser, with Wu Lei central to every attack, as the Shenxin defence struggled to keep up with his pace and creativity. Twice the midfielder went close inside the first 15 minutes, however, having done excellently to find himself in a shooting position, his finish could not match the build up. Wu continued to probe, running at the increasingly fragile home defence and repeatedly beating his marker before delivering cross after cross into the box – frustratingly to no avail. On the other wing however, Lv Wenjun struggled to get into the game at all, and was visibly unhappy when Xi Zhikang called time on his evening just 38 minutes into the game, replacing him with Wang Jiayu.
With Wang now operating on the left side of midfield, East Asia immediately looked more dangerous, and for the remainder of the first 45 minutes, they found themselves camped inside the Shenxin half. Finally, on the stroke of half time, the breakthrough came, as Daniel McBreen rose unchallenged from Tobias Hysén’s corner, to nod home a simple header past Liu Dianzuo.
Xi Zhikang’s experiment with Wu Yuyin at right back ended at half time, as Fu Huan reclaimed his spot, and immediately gave his side an extra attacking dimension, supporting and overlapping Wu Lei. Wang Jiayu began to pull strings in midfield too; his precise through ball to Hysén almost ending beautifully, however the Swede, having turned defender Johnny inside out, cannoned his shot onto the crossbar.
Despite now largely dictating the tempo of the game, East Asia suffered a couple of scares – first, as Jaílton Paraíba’s back post tap in was contentiously ruled out for offside, then again after Utaka’s break down the left hand side left him one on one with Yan Junling. The Shenxin man’s shot was saved by Yan, although the ball squeezed under the East Asia ‘keeper and onto the post, leaving hearts in mouths as he scrambled to recover.
Having ridden out the hosts’ brief period of resurgence, East Asia threw everything they had into finding a winner, and eventually it came courtesy of substitute Imad Khalili, who latched onto Hysén’s left footed drive for a straightforward back post tap in, with only 2 minutes left on the clock.
Shenxin naturally pushed ahead in search of a way back into the game, but the result was sealed in injury time, as Wu Lei capped another outstanding performance with a deserved goal. After regaining possession on the edge of the East Asia penalty area, Wang Jiayu lofted a long ball forward to Wu, in acres of space down the right hand side. Collecting the ball and rounding Shenxin stopper Liu in one move, Wu was left to simply slot home into an empty net, to the frenetic excitement of the travelling fans.
The win takes East Asia up to 4th in the table, and very much back within reach of an ACL spot, although the confidence taken from the manner of the late victory cannot be understated. Having dropped points at home to weaker opposition, in games they have dominated in recent weeks, it will be a great relief to finally have picked up all 3 points this time out.
Shanghai Shenxin: 25 Liu Dianzuo; 4 Sun Kai (90’+3 – 7 Xu Wen), 2 Jiang Jiajun, 17 You-Hwan Lim, 26 Johnny, 16 Yu Tao, 24 Zhang Yudong (64′ – 6 Hou Junjie), 13 Ye Chongqiu (90’+2 – 21 Liu Junnan), 8 Jaílton Paraíba, 27 Yang Jiawei, 35 Peter Utaka.
Shanghai East Asia: 1 Yan Junling; 3 Wu Yuyin (45′ – 23 Fu Huan), 25 Ransford Addo, 21 Ibán Cuadrado, 4 Wang Shenchao, 6 Cai Huikang, 5 Wang Jiajie, 7 Wu Lei, 11 Lv Wenjun (38′ – 20 Wang Jiayu), 9 Tobias Hysén, 36 Daniel McBreen (84′ – 19 Imad Khalili).