Jiangsu Suning was held to a goalless draw by Tianjin TEDA in an anemic performance lacking both direction and intensity.
If one of the crucial questions facing Choi Yong-soo’s side prior to kick off was its ability to pose an attacking threat in the absence of Alex Teixeira and Roger Martinez, it is now glaringly apparent that Wang Song and Ji Xiang struggle to fill the void. In fact, it was only through the 80th minute introduction of Ge Wei’s towering awkwardness that Jiangsu finally found a focal point and with it a genuine goal threat.
Chinese Super League
Jiangsu Suning 0
Tianjin TEDA 0
The first half was a scrappy, truncated affair with Tianjin making their intentions clear in a team sheet that tried to mirror Jiangsu’s 3-5-2 and anchored around John Obi Mikel in the center back role. Tianjin is clearly a side very much in the development stage and following their late 2-0 defeat to Shandong Luneng, it is hardly surprising that their manager Jaime Pacheco sought to contain rather than control.
Jiangsu made a string of changes from the side that suffered a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Shanghai Shenhua, switching to a back four and deploying utility man Ji Xiang as a lone forward. The thinking, perhaps, was for smart interplay to develop with Xie Pengfei and Wang Song, who had both been absent in the season’s opening fixture. It didn’t and, for all the preseason talk of building squad understanding, the team lacked cohesion with width a recurrent problem.
The opening 30 minutes was as mild as the March evening and Ramires seemed without position, one minute he was looking to link up with a bumbling Wang Song, the next he was dropping deep to collect from Zhang Sipeng, who started in place of Gu Chao as further evidence of Choi’s rotating the goalkeeper.
Tianjin’s game plan was simple enough; exploit the flanks and cross early towards new signing Brown Ideye. Mirahmetjan Muzepper and Yang Liyu had success in stages one and two of the operation but failed to offer the former West Brom forward anything resembling a chance at goal.
In a half of little note, both managers issued their disinterest in paying anything more than lip service to the CFA’s U-23 rule with Gao Tianyi and Yang Liyu hooked off in the 22nd and 40th minute respectively.
Jiangsu introduced club captain Wu Xi for the ineffective Song at the interval and, if Choi’s thinking was to speed the side’s transition passing and offer Ramires a midfield partner, it only half worked.
The match came to life for a fleeting 15 minutes catalyzed by Tianjin’s Hu Rentian, who indulged in speculative long rangers all evening. Within seconds of the restart he had Zhang glancing nervously over his shoulder after shooting from well over 30 yards out. Minutes later he fired another over the bar.
The best chance of the evening fell Jiangsu’s way in the 52nd minute and it the type of opportunity that would have seen Teixeira or Martinez wheeling away in celebration. Ramires found Wu Xi in the area with a long diagonal and the substitute cushioned a header across goal to Ji Xiang who had time but could only fire straight at Tianjin’s goalkeeper.
If Jiangsu’s forward play was stunted and sloppy, with Liu Jianye’s decision making producing a series of frustrated sounds from the home fans, the team’s defense seemed assured less than a week on from the performance in Shanghai. Hong Jeong-ho and Yang Boyu were dogged throughout and intercepted long ball after long ball hit towards Brown. The striker only had one chance of note which came in the game’s dying seconds when he rolled a weak shot wide of goal.
Urgency only truly entered Jiangsu’s play with the addition of Ge and, though not exactly an elegant tactic, with the promise of several upcoming games without Teixeira and Martinez, perhaps Choi will be tempted to introduce the 6 ft. 6 forward slightly sooner next time around.