Two weeks ago, three sets of people began a nice, extended vacation — Guangzhou R&F, Shanghai SIPG and CSL referees. Unfortunately, only one of them made it back in time for Sunday night’s match.
SIPG gets one point more than they deserved
A disastrously bad performance by SIPG and an utterly incompetent refereeing crew led to a godawful match Sunday night at sodden Yuexishuan Stadium.
The Red Eagles escaped with an unearned 1-1 draw, dropping four points behind Guangzhou Evergrande, which has now won ten straight CSL matches, and leaving SIPG only two points clear of third place Hebei CFFC, which won again Saturday night.
(Bizarrely, Evergrande and Hebei will now play each other twice in five days at Tianhe, on Wednesday in the FA Cup and Sunday in the CSL.)
Oscar, Hulk, Yan, backline fails
There were many culprits for a thoroughly outplayed SIPG side. Oscar had what must have been the worst match of his career, inattentive to the ball and his teammates, misfiring over and over again giving and receiving passes. Hulk looked pudgy and by the 70th minute, he was ineffective and took to standing around with his hands on his hips, gasping for air.
SIPG keeper Yan Junling took his eye off an easy-to-handle 40-yard strike and watched it trickle past him for a farcical goal. The SIPG defense was routinely carved up by Guangzhou R&F, who took an astonishing 19 shots at goal, beating Yan on many of them. (R&F could have had scored five or six goals; it was near miss after near miss.)
When both sides went down to ten men at the end of the first half, a situation you’d expect to favor the faster and more creative Red Eagles, Guangzhou shifted into overdrive and utterly dominated the second half.
Yeah, SIPG was terrible. The referees were worse.
As bad as Shanghai was, they were surpassed in awfulness by the officiating. We can start with Shanghai’s only goal, which saved SIPG from the defeat they so richly deserved. Hulk and Oscar mismanaged a two-man fast break from midfield, a Hulk pass catching Oscar offside by at least a yard, but the call was missed and Hulk ended up walking in alone on Guangzhou keeper Cheng Yuelei, who had no chance.
Guangzhou protested, of course, and referee Zhou Gang, backed into a muddy corner of the pitch, lost his cool and issued two yellows for complaining about the crappy call — to Guangzhou’s Junior Orso and Jiang Zhipeng.
After play resumed, a frustrated and angry Guangzhou side exploded following a rough exchange of tackles at mid-field. A bench-clearing melee broke out, the most egregious part of which was a cowardly assault on Oscar by Chen Zhizhao, who got a running start and blindsided Oscar, shoving the Brazilian to the ground hard from behind.
No red for Chen — he got a yellow. SIPG’s Fu Huan and R&F’s Li Tixiang got reds for “violent conduct,” play resumed nine minutes into stoppage time and Zhou Gang, unaccountably, almost immediately blew his whistle for the half. If you subtract the time for the goal protests and the melee, Guangzhou supporters who paid their money to turn out in the rain were rewarded with about a 35-minute half. Thanks, Zhou.
More Zhou mistakes
Zhou wasn’t done. An illusory 48th-minute penalty gave R&F a free kick that ended up about six inches from hitting the back of the net. Late in the second half, R&F’s U23 Huang Zhengyu, trying to stop Hulk from starting a break, literally jumped on Hulk from behind and horse collared him to the ground, making not even the slightest pretense of going after the ball. No red. In the 89th minute, R&F’s Tang Miao went flying into Zhang Wei, missing the ball completely, his spikes catching Zhang flush on the upper thigh. No red. And finally, Zhang, who had earlier came on in relief of Wu Lei in the 57th minute, got pulled down in the box in the 91st minute — no card, not even a foul.
Zhou, in short, had no business refereeing a professional football match. He caught a break, though — only one of the two teams at Yuexishuan was playing at a professional level.
Match highlights and a reckoning for AVB
In particular, note the fourth-minute comedy from R&F’s Jiang Zhipeng, who took a shot from eight yards out that missed the net by ten yards, and a 90th-minute, all-hustle, game-saving rebound clearance by SIPG’s Zhang Wei. There was precious little of that for SIPG on the evening.
André Villas-Boas will either demand more from an SIPG side that came back from the break unfit, unprepared and unmotivated, or this match will lead to a fumbling, underachieving second half, cancel out a very promising start and end the year with Villas-Boas looking for a new job.