Jiangsu’s high-summer revival continued on a breathless evening in the provincial capital with Fabio Capello’s side held to a 2-2 draw against fellow strugglers Henan Jianye.
CHINESE SUPER LEAGUE
Jiangsu Suning 2
Benjamin Moukandjo 40
Tempo, and with it footballing intrigue, fluctuated wildly between polar extremes; tetchy and tepid for much of the first half before convulsing to vigorous, energetic heights on par with the recent soaring August temperatures.
For some, mild disappointment lingered at the final whistle – a third consecutive win would certainly have further lulled relegation patterings – but the performance went some way in illuminating the progress the former England manager has already made in his brief two month tenure.
The crowd tried it’s howling berserker best to stir an assault in the final 10 minutes, however sapped energy levels, epitomized by long backwards passing, prevented Ramires and co. from truly attempting a final glorious fell swoop.
The game offered a most passive aggressive of introductions and the two sides probed one another with meek questions, like sworn enemies forced into semi-polite dialogue at some lethargic drinks party hosted in a sauna. The first action came after 20 minutes when Borek Dockal had the nerve to spill his drink on Jiangsu’s toes and dribble a shot into the grateful arms of Gu Chao.
The water break emboldened the affair and with the potent combination of H20 and electrolytes surging through the veins, Alex Teixeira began to show why the Italian elevated him above a suddenly inform Roger Martinez with pulsating bursts from both wide and central positions.
The home side built momentum and took the lead with a smooth sweeping move that started with a probing Gao Tianyi pass, progressed through an elegant handful of touches from Nanjing’s resident Brazilians, and was finished with aplomb from Benjamin Moukandjo whose arrival from Lorient is beginning to look like a master stroke from upper management.
Jiangsu’s defense seems tighter after eight weeks of Italian drilling, Zhou Yun less error prone and Zhang Xiaobin offered the freedom to step out from the back, however concentration lapsed moments before the break and Hu Jinhang was offered a sliver of space to run into and he obliged with a precise finish past the flapping Gu.
During the prematch hullabaloo Jiangsu’s media boffins affixed the encounter with a chengyu to the effect of “30 percent luck, the rest relies on hard work”, the type of stock cliché that inevitably invited the maiden of fate to descend with dubious offerings. And, moments after the interval, descend she did, armed with a heinous overturned penalty and deciding that Texeria being felled like a young sapling was tantamount to a fair tackle.
To further the incredulity of the home fans, from the ensuing corner Henan counterattacked through Christian Bassogog, whose name evokes something fearful and Tolkien that guard caves, who strugged off coat trailing defenders before smashing home at the near post. Enter silence and the frustration of thousands of fans beat out in a blur of hand fans.
The Cameroonian international terrorized Li Ang and Zhou all evening with speed and strength – following the goal he was at the receiving end of a litany of cynical fouls at the mere sniff of him making any upfield progress and the inevitable question after watching the forward is whether he is the fastest player in the CSL?
Jiangsu responded in quick time when Moukandjo was allowed time to look up and match the darting run of Teixeira with a pinpoint cross, the type of goal that shows growing onfield understanding between the forwards. Wang Song, who spoke before the match of the squad’s fatigue, has proved integral and offers a good range of passing and will certainly give Wu Xi stiff competition when the club captain returns from injury.
Although goalkeeping shortcomings have plagued Jiangsu’s season thus far, there was reason to be grateful for Gu who made a string of strong saves in the final half hour that ensured Jiangsu didn’t come away empty handed.
While progress up the table may be incremental, the growth in the side’s confidence is tangible as shown by the patient manner with which Jiangsu passed the ball in the last 10 minutes when the side was nominally searching for a goal.
While Capello will no doubt feel that three points might have been won with a slight tightening of defensive screws, the side is a work in progress and the squad’s genuine depth of talent combined with a trio of inform forwards should ensure Jiangsu continues to look up the table.