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Ji Xiang the architect as Jiangsu beats Shanghai Shenhua 5-1

Arrivederci Fabio Capello, Jiangsu Suning bid a boisterous buna to its very own Romanian revolution in the wake of Sunday’s 5-1 demolition of Shanghai Shenhua.

Expectations have mounted in Nanjing as Cosmin Olaroiu’s undefeated start as Jiangsu manager has continued, but even the most ardent fans, those who choose to spend home matches toiling semi-naked beneath the fluttering icon of Sun Yat Sen, couldn’t have foreseen such a convincing victory in the Yangtze River Derby.

By way of explanation, Shanghai might point to the inconvenience of an 16,000-km midweek jaunt to Sydney. Yet, with the likes of Freddy Guarin, goalkeeper Li Shuai, and Eddy Francis rested from the final game of Shenhua’s hapless sojourn in the AFC Champions League, the excuse is certainly a thin one.

While the contest was closer than the scoreline ultimately suggested, Jiangsu proved itself a clinical, robust outfit. Jiangsu’s goal in the seventh minute was a sign of the error strewn afternoon awaiting Shanghai with the shortest player on the pitch, Huang Zichang, meeting Ji Xiang’s corner utterly unopposed.

Wu Jingui’s side passes smartly and has pace to burn, but was undermined by the amount of time it afforded the Nanjingers in possession. Jiangsu’s second typified this malaise with Ji, enjoying a renaissance season now freed from defensive responsibilities, allowed time and space to pick out a darting run by Wu Xi into the box.

Midway through the half, Shanghai stabilized and found footing in the contest when Oscar Romero bent an inswinging cross onto the head of Rong Hao. Pressure continued to mount and were it not for Bai Jiajun’s puerile tackle on the edge of the area, Shanghai may well have entered halftime within touching distance. Instead, Ji dispatched the freekick and the game slipped away.

If Olaroiu had been pleased by the first half performance, the second must have been a sumptuous delight, the type a manager dreams up while peering through motorway sleet on a slow-moving team coach. Smelling capitulation, Jiangsu’s eagerness in the tackle grew in step with Shanghai’s slack marking and the side’s fourth evidenced vision, and cutting-edge. Ji burst through midfield with a drop of the shoulder, passed to Wu with the captain immediately flicking the ball into the path of Xie Pengfei who fired home resolutely.

In the run up to the game, there were murmurs of Jiangsu fans concocting a giant tifo to decorate the derby game, and there, moments before the big game with television cameras panning and shortsighted fans squinting, it was; a white-collar worker ripping of his shirt to reveal “This Is My Stage” proclaimed on the blue of a Jiangsu strip.

In truth, the Nanjing Olympic Sports Centre has seemed an odd home at times recently, a shiny beast that is dusty and unloved on the inside, a ground that seemed cavernous and unappealing at the tail end of 2017 as Jiangsu flirted with a stint in China League One. Yet on that fine April evening with Ji delivering yet another pinpoint cross and the home side extending its lead to four goals through Li Ang’s composed volley, the tifo seemed to fit, at least for a while.

Inhabits Beijing. Consumes football. Runs marathons.

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