SIPG has beaten three top teams in a row, go for a fourth tonight, and the numbers bear out what everyone can see: a high octane offense and a leaky defense make for some entertaining football.
SIPG Lays Waste to the Northern Capitol
How the mighty have fallen.
Yeah, of course Beijing Guo’an hasn’t won silverware of any kind since 2009, but what happened Saturday night at Shanghai Stadium is still shocking: after dodging the consequences of some early, sputtering backline play, SIPG blew the northerners out of the stadium, pouring in five goals before a meaningless 90th minute response from Turkish international Burak Yilmaz.
Everything André Villas-Boas tried worked: Wei Shihao took the U23 slot for SIPG, went 71’ and scored twice, the first time taking Hulk’s place as a yellow-carded shirtless Adonis, and in general looked like he might deserve more playing time.
Sure, Wei’s first goal was more down to Wu Lei than it was to Wei – it came after a gorgeous dribble and centering pass from Wu, which left Wei with nothing more to do than not panic on a tap-in. But Wei’s second was another stunning, long-distance rocket from almost exactly the same place on the pitch as his game-winner against Shandong.
Wu scored two goals himself, one of them a gorgeously athletic volley from the top of the area. When’s the last time a CSL game featured four goals by Chinese players? Hulk got one, too. Three assists for Oscar.
Rout Follows Big Wins Against Shenhua, Jiangsu
The high flying Red Eagles are on something of a roll. Before Guo’an limped out of town, SIPG went to still-fire-damanged Hongkou and brushed aside a hapless Shenhua squad populated by a match-fixer and second-rate talents and then rebounded neatly at home from an early Martinez goal to beat Jiangsu Suning 2-1 in the first leg of the Round of 16 round in the Asian Champion’s League.
Coming up for SIPG: a second leg tonight against Jiangsu and a weekend fixture at Shanghai Stadium against Liaoning. Jiangsu did get a valuable away goal at Shanghai Stadium last week, but in order for that to matter, they’ll have to actually beat SIPG in Nanjing. Jiangsu have recorded one victory in their last sixteen matches against CSL teams. Liaoning is coming off a win against hapless Yanbian.
SIPG by the Numbers
Soccer statistics are still evolving in terms of their acceptance among ultras, pub tossers, far-flung announcers and the like, but in SIPG’s case, the numbers handily pass the eye test.
(All following numbers are from www.whoscored.com)
Shanghai leads the league in both scoring and fewest goals allowed (and, obviously, goal differential, which is arguably more indicative of talent than points).
The offensive domination is complete: SIPG leads the CSL in shots/game (16.6), shots within the penalty area (8.1), and shots on target (6.5), in goals from open play (19) and is third in set-piece goals (behind Liaoning and Hebei).
Individually, Wu Lei is third in goals with 7, by far the leading Chinese scorer in the CSL, and Hulk is fifth with 6.
Generally speaking, it’s all about Hulk. He’s second in shots/game (behind Guangzhou R&F’s Israeli international Eran Zahavi), second in assists (6), leads the league in dribbling attempts, and is second in getting fouled, at 4.1 whacks/game. (And that counts the SIPG-Teda match, when Donald Trump could have shot Hulk in the middle of Fifth Avenue without drawing a foul. Marinho of Changchun is the only player who is getting fouled more.)
(And speaking of fouls: the dirtiest team in the league so far is Evergrande, with 33 yellows and three reds. GZ’s Gao Lin leads the league with five yellows and Huang Bowen and Mei Fang have four each.)
Ahmedov is second in the league in passing efficiency (he completes 89.4%), and Oscar is first among non-keepers in completing long passes. (SIPG and Hebei are the only teams in the league that complete more than half of their long balls.)
Overall, SIPG is second in the league in passing accuracy, behind only R&F.
Defensive numbers not as good
Despite allowing only nine goals in eleven games, the defensive numbers are not as impressive; perhaps owning so much of the ball is SIPG’s best “defensive” strategy.
SIPG is second-worst in the league in intercepting passes. (Only Shenhua is worse.)
Shi Ke is fourth in clearances and ninth in blocked shots, but no other SIPG defender is in the Top 20 in either category. Cai Huikang is sixth in tackles, but again, is alone among SIPG defenders in that category.
The bright spot is keeper Yan Junling, who has the second highest keeper rating, according to the website’s algorithm, behind only Cheng Yuelai of R&F. (National team mainstay Zeng Cheng of GZ is a distant third.)