Roger Martinez found an opportune moment to notch his first Chinese Super League (CSL) goal in 2017 with a deft flick in the 95th minute ensuring Tianjin TEDA contributed a point toward the Jiangsu Suning charity case.
Optimists may now point to Fabio Capello’s reasonably respectable run of three draws and a defeat, to highflying Shanghai SIPG no less, as evidence of momentum slowly shifting in favor of Jiangsu, but, in truth, last year’s runners up seemed a ragtag assortment of disconnected individuals and must be thankful for the home side’s egregious wastefulness.
CHINESE SUPER LEAGUE
Tianjin TEDA 1
Jiangsu Suning 1
R. Martinez 90+5
In the wider context of the league, and Jiangsu’s unimaginably imaginable relegation from the division, the last gasp salvage at TEDA Football Stadium ensured the gap between the two sides remains four points, which may prove critical in the final shakedown – provided Ramires et al. can continue to procure points in the second half of the season.
Whereas the reverse fixture back in March was an affair full of friction and combative cancelling out, here Tianjin dominated throughout and Mbaye Diagne’s tragicomic collection of missed chances in the 10 minutes after half time was ultimately what stopped Lee Lim-saeng’s side from running away with the game.
First the Senegal born forward conspired to miss from five yards after goalkeeper Gu Chao had pushed a Nemanja Gudelj shot into his path, one cannot even say the shot was sliced so true and clean was his connection with the ball. Next, he lifted a penalty kick high into the stands after a mazy run by Gudelj was halted by Gao’s dangling leg.
Tianjin’s captain took matters into his own hands moments later with a clinical header from a set piece wide on the left in the 55th minute. Once again Gudelj proved the provider and the goal ensured that the home side deservedly took the lead at their ninth time of asking. However, in a show of cynicism it was one of the last occasions when Tianjin offered an attacking intent in the remaining 35 minutes.
Seemingly building upon former manager Choi Yong-soo’s system, the veteran Italian settled on a back three for the trip to the north Chinese port and continues to push Wu Xi into the space behind his duo of South American forwards. Notably, Gao Tianyi seems more than a tokenistic U23 selection with the 19-year old playing the full 90 minutes. Prior to Martinez’s late interjection, the former Shenzhen midfielder went closest for Jiangsu with a shot from the edge of the area.
Jiangsu’s defense seemed stretched throughout the contest and, somewhat depressingly for Jiangsu fans, Alex Teixeira, whose fizzy fleet-footed panache was the side’s sole shining light in the season’s opening months, has become afflicted with a malaise of total indifference. It’s hard begrudge the Brazilian’s apathy at being part of a CSL relegation scrap when he might be enjoying preseason in the United States with Champions League bound Liverpool.
While Capello has tinkered with personnel, previous regulars Ji Xiang and Liu Jianyi are now absent from the starting line up, one area in which the former Real Madrid manager has been unwavering is in his elevation of Gu Chao to first choice goal keeper and here the away side was frequently indebted to the Shanghai-native’s steadfast shot stopping. Most obviously when Yang Boyu’s slip in midfield offered Yang Liyu a clean run at goal only to be denied by Gu’s outstretched right foot.
The celebrations at the final whistle were indications of a side hanging on rather than one making promising strides forward and with fellow strugglers Liaoning Whowin up next, Capello will likely be hoping for three points irrespective of performance.