Hallelujah! Rejoice! Gan bei! Proudly unfurl the Sun Yat-sen flags! After months of anguish, Jiangsu Suning won its second game of the season in a thoroughly deserved 4-0 thumping of fellow relegation strugglers Liaoning Whowin F.C.
CHINESE FA CUP
Jiangsu Suning 2
Benjamin Moukandjo 31
Bai Tianci 66
Cleiton Silva 85
While still wildly premature to sniff safety or claim to observe the Italian maestro’s fingerprints on this struggling Jiangsu side, there are reasons for optimism; the defence appeared more resolute in what was only the second league clean sheet since early March and Roger Martinez, so much the catalyst of 2016’s inspiring campaign, gave his first true performance of menace and guile to date this season.
Certainly, with winnable upcoming games against Chongqing and Henan, the Nanjing faithful will hope the league table makes mildly more palatable reading come early August.
So dire has the form of last season’s CSL runners-up been and so fractured the team’s football that it’s easy to empathize with the fans’ jubilation at the final whistle. However, it should not be forgotten that this is the same Liaoning side that shipped eight goals to Shanghai Shenhua at the end of June.
In fact, until the 60th minute when Wang Song waltzed onto Ramires’ toe poke through ball and calmly doubled the home side’s advantage, Liaoning had threatened to prolong disappointment in the provincial capital with Anthony Ujah looking particularly dangerous in the second half.
If luck has been a hard commodity to come by at the Nanjing Olympic Stadium in recent months, Jiangsu received a welcome sprinkling of fortune after 20 minutes when the decision to disallow a Martinez header was overruled by the referee following a manic player protest. Similarly, when Olivier Boumal fluffed a shot moments before the interval, there was the sense that on this particular occasion the wind might be blowing in the home side’s favor.
The former AC Milan manager made slight adjustments from the side that so frustratingly failed to overcome lower league Shanghai Shenxin in midweek, but wisely kept team’s core the same with Zhou Yun anchoring defense, Ramires offering typical energy in midfield, and new signing Benjamin Moukandjo starting in attack for the second time in the week.
One of the most pleasing aspects of Capello’s tenure so far has been the promotion of youngsters Gao Tianyi and Tao Yuan to the first team and it seems the manager is treating the pair as more than mere tokens of the CFA’s preseason U23 ruling. Gao, in particular, might prove one of the sole bright spots in an otherwise gloomy season; having spent several formative teenage years in Spain, he offers simple passing, thrust from midfield, and potentially, provided he gains a little more composure, goals.
It was the rejuvenated Martinez who quelled any possibility of the away side forging a comeback with a slick backheel into the path of Yang Xiaotian. The defender raced down the left flank and snatched his first league goal since 2014 with a powerful shot through the legs of Zhang Zhenqiang.
The rout was complete when Moukandjo capped off an energetic performance with his second goal for the club. The Cameroonian showed clever footwork after receiving Xie Pengfei’s cutback inside the area and looks to be the type of powerful forward that has found great success in the CSL in recent years.
Much work remains in the weeks ahead for Jiangsu and the side now sits a solitary point above the relegation zone. However, if the team’s strikers are truly finding form and Capello can continue to strike a balance between Ramires’ battling capabilities and Wang Song’s attacking vision, the former Guangzhou R&F midfielder passed beautifully throughout, the sound of hope that echoed around the stadium at the final whistle will not have been totally misplaced.