Xujiahui Communique – The Shanghai SIPG column
Your regular update on all things Shanghai SIPG. Another dramatic Shanghai Derby is this week’s focus along with some ACL magic.
Shanghai Derby destruction
This was not the most eagerly anticipated Shanghai derby anybody has ever seen.
Four days after playing the most emotionally intense game in Chinese football history, it was anybody’s guess what kind of SIPG team would show up Saturday night against Shenhua.
Meanwhile, Shenhua, in the midst of a godawful season, lost their coach on Monday, replaced him with a local hack on his fourth-go-round with the team and was in a stretch of four CSL losses with an aggregate of one goal for, thirteen against.
In the end, it was all about professionalism. SIPG showed up. Shenhua didn’t. SIPG dominated a scoreless first half, then exploded for four goals in seven minutes shortly after the restart — two from Wu Lei (his 16th and 17 in the CSL this season) and one each from Hulk and Ahkmedov.
They added a couple more later: another from Hulk — he now has 13 — and Li Shenglong’s second of the year in five appearances.
The stats were as one-sided as the scoreline: SIPG had two-thirds of the possession, took 11 corners to one for Shenhua, and outshot the Hongkou side 12-4.
The stats only reflect what anyone with two eyes could see: Shenhua just didn’t give a shit. It was a disgraceful performance from an organization that has utterly lost its way. SIPG took both matches the teams played in the CSL, 9-2 on aggregate. There is a chance they’ll play again in the finals of the FA Cup; both have one goal leads in their semi-final.
After a Sunday night draw for Guangzhou in Nanjing, SIPG is now six points down in the CSL with five matches left to play. Probably too many to come back from, there’s no question that the schedule favors SIPG. Guangzhou has Chongqing (A), Yanbian (H), Guizhou (H), Hebei (A) and Quanjian (H).
SIPG has Guoan (A), Liaoning (A), R&F (H), Henan (A) and Jiangsu (H).
Hebei and Quanjian are good teams likely facing do-or-die matches against Evergrande as they try to get into the Asian Champion’s League. None of the teams SIPG faces — with the possible exception of R&F — will be playing for anything in particular.
ACL & mysterious traffic “accidents”
Speech issues continue to crop up in and around the SIPG team — this time (again) for André Villas-Boas.
After Tuesday night’s Canton thriller, AVB gave a press conference which can only be described as enervated and pissed off. He landed on Iranian referee Alireza Faghani, who had a bad match, and in particular Faghani’s decision to call Yan Junling for a yellow card during the penalty shootout. Yan was doing a little garden variety psyching; the card was astonishing, and will keep Yan out of the first ACL semi-final match against Urawa Red Diamonds. AVB also said that Evergrande or allies unknown caused three traffic incidents in which the SIPG team bus was stopped by cars faking accidents.
The ACL is “investigating,” and despite SIPG having issued a formal apology for AVB’s remarks, the sixth “free speech” suspension this year for a member of the SIPG squad may result.
But: AVB says SIPG has digital footage of the “accidents,” involving the same two cars three different times. If the footage supports SIPG’s account, how about, instead of suspending AVB, a criminal prosecution of the drivers and whoever hired them? What they did, after all, could have delayed not only the SIPG bus, but also police, fire or ambulance first responders and even cost lives.
Speech isn’t just an issue for players and coaches. After Saturday night’s match, disgruntled Shenhua fans in the visitor’s section demanded that Shenhua players strip their jerseys in shame, asked for an apology from club owners and refused to leave the stadium. For their troubles, they were assaulted by the police, and at least one Shenhua fan was knocked unconscious. Journalists were prohibited from staying to watch, according to reports in both Chinese and English media.
It’s hard to imagine Chinese football attracting talent if the CFA continues to assault the football rights of it’s players and coaches, and it’s hard to imagine fan culture developing if fans are preventing from expressing their frustration with something as laughably corrupt and incompetent as Shenhua management.