SIPG takes care of business in Yanji
Can’t we just relegate Yanbian now?
Saying that watching Yanbian is like watching paint dry is a grievous insult to paint. They pack the back and hope for a lucky bounce. That’s their sophisticated, 21st century footballing strategy.
They’re in last place on skill and they’re in last place on ideas, too.
Saturday against SIPG, a 3-1 stroll in the park for the Red Eagles, Yanbian settled back into a 5-3-2 defensive shell and refused to budge.
Teams that employ this strategy are hoping to occasionally threaten with a quick counterattack, and Yanbian managed seven of those. But as most of the Yanbian side chose to sit back and cautiously watch, those chances were all doomed. They broke down this way: the first one was two attackers on five defenders, then two on six, three on six, two on six, two on five, two on three and, finally, three on five.
Meanwhile, with Hulk and Wu Lei back in the line-up after their two-game suspensions for expressing their low opinion of the CFA, Shanghai’s offense returned to form. In the eighth minute, a long Hulk pass to Wu down the left side and a clinically efficient Wu pass in the center to Elkeson led to the first goal.
Another masterpiece from Hulk
The match finished with one of the cleverest goals you’ll ever see. Hulk took a pass from Wu and came to a complete stop at the top of the box on the right-hand side, paused for a half a beat, then lobbed over several defenders and the flummoxed keeper into the upper left hand corner of the net.
Wu got the other goal, an 84th minute lob after a great first touch sent him in alone on the keeper, but he also missed two point-blank headers earlier in what has been a season-long issue for him. Wu’s second in the league in goals scored during the run of play, with 10. He’d be ahead of R&F’s Erin Zahavi, who leads the league with 13, if he could bury a few more headers.
Yanbian’s offense has managed 12 goals in 17 matches, 31 fewer than SIPG. The last time they got two or more goals in a CSL match was last October against Hangzhou, which was immediately kicked out of the league for their shameful display.
Yanbian’s lone goal in this match came within a few seconds of Wu’s goal. Shanghai, celebrating the match clincher, simply fell asleep.
A note to the CSL: starting mid-summer games at 3:30pm is a terrible idea. Game time temperature was 32 degrees in Yanji in the shade and most of the field was in the sun. Both sides struggled with the heat. Hulk, in particular, fell into the habit of taking a pass and then coming to a dead halt, using the respect defenders were giving him to take a short little nap.
Yanbian fans voted on the start time with their feet: a crowd announced at 15,000, but obviously well short of that, turned up to see the most entertaining team in Asia.
Match highlights (the Hulk goal is at 4:40 of this highlights package):
Huge week looms for SIPG: FA Cup quarters, then GZ comes to town
The upcoming week is one of the biggest weeks of the year for SIPG. On Wednesday comes the first leg of the FA Cup quarterfinal in Tianjin against red hot Quanjian, which has won five straight matches in all competitions. Oscar and Fu Huan will be eligible to take the field.
Sunday, Shanghai Stadium will see the first of what may be five matches in the next couple of months between SIPG and Guangzhou Evergrande. Game time temperature for that match could approach 40 degrees. Watch SIPG take on Guangzhou Evergrande on this official CSL stream here.
First place in the CSL is on the line. Later, they’ll play each other in the two-leg ACL quarterfinal and possibly in the two-leg FA Cup semi-final.
(It’ll be interesting to see if André Villas-Boas gives Hulk the day off in the mid-week, FA Cup match to try and keep him fresh for the Guangzhou fixture; the Brazilian was clearly bested by the weather in Yanji.)
By the way, as the schedule has it now, the return leg of SIPG-Quanjian will be on a Tuesday, allowing the Red Eagles only one day of rest after an important CSL road fixture on a Sunday against Shandong Luneng. It will be hard for SIPG to field their best line-up or take the Cup seriously if the CSL insists on this kind of scheduling.