Shandong Luneng claimed the first silverware of the new season on Saturday with a penalty shootout victory over champions Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao in Hangzhou’s Huanglong Stadium.
CHINESE SUPER CUP
Guangzhou Evergrande 0
Shandong Luneng 0
Shandong win (3-5 on pens)
Taobao 0-0 Taishan (3-5 pens)
In a dour match short on moments of real quality, Evergrande’s Huang Bowen was the villain as his spot-kick cannoned back off the crossbar, leaving Aloisio Gonçalves to roll home the decisive penalty and spark wild celebrations among the pocket of Luneng fans behind the goal.
In truth, the official curtain-raiser for the inauguration of next month’s Super League season took until midway through the second half before finally sparking into life, with neither side able to make a watertight case for dominating proceedings. Much of the pre-match focus had centred on both sides’ latest Brazilian imports – Shandong’s Diego Tardelli, signed from Atlético Mineiro, and Guangzhou’s Alan and Ricardo Goulart. Yet signs of any instantaneous on-pitch chemistry between them and the existing South American contingent were in short supply despite an obvious eagerness to impress.
During an opening half that carried much of the trappings of a pre-season friendly, it was Fabio Cannavaro’s men who had the clearer opportunities. Renê Júnior should have done better with a free header from an 11th-minute corner, while Elkeson hooked an improvised bicycle-kick a yard over the bar a few minutes later. However, with both sides defending resolutely and showing a lack of invention in the final third, much of this early promise petered out, leading to a midfield war of attrition.
The second half began more brightly when defensive miscommunication within the Luneng ranks led to an almighty goalmouth scramble; Yang Cheng eventually spared the blushes of his centre-backs with a fine one-handed stop down to his right.
Minutes later, Yang was on-hand again to turn a viciously struck Elkeson free kick round the post.
The match was gradually coming to the boil, with both sides beginning to make better use of possession and exploit the space to be had along the flanks. After causing a panic with a goalmouth scramble of their own, Shandong very nearly snatched the trophy in the final minute of normal time.
Some patient midfield play ended with a well-hit strike from 25 yards, and when Dong Hengyi could only parry it straight to the onrushing Tardelli, the scene was set for the debutant to write the headlines. Yet Tardelli wanted one touch too many, and Dong recovered well to save with his feet.
Tardelli was not made to rue his missed opportunity, however, as Shandong won the resulting penalty shootout to follow up last season’s FA Cup victory with another trophy.