Dust off your best hotpot analogies, Jiangsu Suning lost 4-1 to Chongqing Lifan at the weekend.
Possession fetishists may note Fabio Capello’s side hogged 56 percent of the ball, but in the absence of Wu Xi (recalled to the national side), dependable youngster Gao Tianyi, and Ramires (insert row of question marks), the Nanjing-side looked likely to lack cut and guile.
As a remedy, Ji Xiang was deployed as an anchor in midfield. The Yangzhou native is now a short stint between the sticks away from playing all eleven positions in a single year. And though Jiangsu’s captain stuck the crossbar with an early free kick, the away side’s lack of balance frequently showed as Chongqing broke downfield with an easy speed.
With a Fernandinho on each wing, nomenclature-based confusion in the commentary box was reflected on field as the Brazilians terrorized Li Ang and Zhou Yun all evening long.
Chongqing scored after the quarter-hour mark as VAR adjudged Gabriel Paletta’s kung fu leap worthy of an indirect free kick. One Fernandinho lashed home through a parted blue and black sea.
Chongqing’s second was less controversial. Fernandinho (hint: the taller one) tried his ‘beat-your-man-to-the-byline’ routine and chipped the ball onto the head of Liu Weidong after 24 minutes. The Jiangsu faithful were strong in number and voice, but could be forgiven for dreading the remainder of the encounter given a poor recent record against the southwesterners.
Alex Teixeira offered momentary hope before the interval when he capitalized on some dodgy defensive work to put away Zhang Xiaobin’s cross. On the move, Jiangsu had worked the ball patiently into wide spaces and would repeat the maneuver throughout- most notably moments before the halftime whistle when winter signing Tian Yinong headed wide from six yards out.
If this was to be a game of headers, Paulo Bento’s side showed its supremacy with a smart training ground corner that found Ding Jie’s noggin on the hour mark.
The third goal stretched matters and with Jiangsu already paying for a lack of sharpness in front of goal, Liu allayed any home nerves with a clever near-post check flick. Capello adjudged the goal ‘VAR worthy’, saying after the game:
“The fourth goal appeared to have touched the arm. I do not understand the fourth. When the goal was controversial, why do you not use the video referee?”
Capello will be hoping for more TV cupboard work by officialdom in the future and will likely get his wish as VAR seems, if anything, an attempt at legitimizing domestic refereeing that has long been comedic and lackluster.
Of greater concern for Jiangsu fans was the anonymity of Huang Zichang, hooked by Capello at half time. The diminutive 20-year-old forward had been a bright spot in a tepid start to the 2018 campaign and his lack of involvement here is a reminder of the need for patience when it comes to Jiangsu’s developing players.
Next up for Capello is a home match against Tianjin TEDA, which will hopefully see the return of Ramires and a semblance of progress for the Italian project.
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