A pair of goals either side of halftime secured a comfortable opening day win for Shanghai Shenhua over Jiangsu Suning in the Yangzhe Delta derby.
With a handful of minutes left to play, the home fans began bellowing for a fifth goal, and, though it didn’t come, they were given an alternate reason to celebrate in the 90th minute when Alex Teixeira was sent off for a blatant shove to an opponent’s face.
Chinese Super League
Shanghai Shenhua 4
Moreno 17, 86
Tevez pen. 36
Mao Jianqing 79
The Brazilian’s dismissal meant Jiangsu finished without its South American trio on the field- Ramires didn’t make the short trip to Shanghai and Roger Martinez left the field on a stretcher after 9 minutes- and it showed in a blunt performance that rarely threatened Li Shuai’s goal.
But truthfully, the score line was as much a reflection of the home side’s controlled dominance as Jiangsu’s sloppy ineptitude.
Gio Montero steered a Carlos Tevez free kick high to Jiangsu goalkeeper Gu Chao’s right to give Gus Poyet’s side the lead in the 17th minute. Despite a niggling truncated opening period, a tone that ran until the final whistle, Jiangsu had been warned of the Colombia’s aerial prowess following an unmarked header that had soared over the bar a few minutes earlier.
Jiangsu had ambitions of playing out from the back but a combination of sloppy passing and clever pressing by the home side ensured Gu reverted to long balls forward, more often than not gifting possession straight to the opposing midfield.
Shanghai, for its part, sought to play a fluid game throughout, moving the ball from set pieces with minimal ceremony and switching the play from side-to-side with speed and accuracy. Indeed, if the message coming from the increasingly anxious figure of Choi Yong-soo lurking on the sideline was to slow the tempo of the game, Jiangsu failed to heed the advice and when Tevez lethargically rolled a penalty home in the 36th minute it felt wholly expected.
Gu had been forced into a backpedaling save from an ambitious Bai Jiajun shot and minutes earlier Jiangsu had seemed destined to concede when a nervy game of pinball was played in the own six yard box.
In fact, Jiangsu’s first chance of note came in the 45th minute from a hard hit Teixeira free kick which Li knocked idly over the bar. With the away side lacking Martinez as a focal point up front it entered the break with a game plan shrouded in question marks.
At the start of the second half, Shanghai seemed to invite their rivals to show some mettle and, though there were signs of life when Hong Jeong-ho flashed a header over the bar following a cleverly worked free kick, the home side seemed to be coyly waiting for its moment to put an end to the contest.
Freddy Guarin played imperiously, particularly in the second half, skewing the meaning of a 50/50 tackle in his favor and driving forward with menace. Tevez prowled, scuttled, and spread the ball around smartly, often to Cao Yunding on the left, whose guile, pace, and timing had the beating of Tao Yuan all evening long.
The two sides exchanged punches midway through the second half. First a jinking Guarin run forced Gu into action before Wu Xi hit the post in the 68th minute with a measured shot from the edge of the area.
But the game was Jiangsu’s third in a week and it showed in the spaces that opened up the longer the game continued.
With a little over 10 minutes left in the contest, Mao Jianqing doused any lingering flame of hope for Jiangsu when he latched onto a miscued volley from Guarin. The rout was complete in the 86th minute when Montero, largely subdued in the second half, popped up at the back post to execute a sleek counter attack.
While the failure of Gus Poyet’s side against Brisbane Roar was certainly an ominous start to the season, the performance against Jiangsu was a strong statement for a side with big CSL ambitions
Ground: Hongkou Football Stadium, Hongkou District, Shanghai
Capacity: 35,000 (26,000 for football)
Honours: Chinese top-tier league champions: 1995
Chinese top-tier league runners-up: 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2008
Chinese FA Cup winners: 1998
Chinese FA Cup runners up: 1995, 1997, 2015