This is your WEF home for all things SIPG. This week, Jeff Beresford-Howe looks at the tightening CSL race and Zeng Cheng’s fashion choices.
The CSL race looks like it’s going down to the wire
OK, it’s going to have to be the hard way.
A depleted SIPG squad got the better part of play Sunday night in Nanjing but couldn’t break through against a solid Jiangsu Suning, who were led by the rock solid Argentinian defender Gabrial Paletta. A scoreless draw left SIPG two points to the good of second-place Guangzhou Evergrande, which had shellacked a zombie Beijing Renhe team 6-1 the night before.
It means that SIPG’s margin of error is gone and they’ll likely face a trip to Guangzhou in two weeks in which a loss could topple them from the top of the league. An understandably dispirited squad and away section greeted the final whistle, for the moment overlooking that SIPG now has nine wins and two draws in their last eleven.
SIPG gets hit while Zeng Cheng decision lights up… discussion
Hulk, Yu Hai and manager Vitor Pereira all missed the Jiangsu match. Hulk, suspended for accumulating four yellows, will be back next Sunday against Shandong. The news is not so good for Yu Hai, who sustained an injury in the pointless China-Syria international friendly and is reportedly out for the year. Pereira was suspended for three matches because of sarcastic clapping directed towards the match referee during SIPG’s victory over Guizhou two weeks ago.
In utterly unrelated news, Guangzhou keeper Zeng Cheng, who wore socks during the national team match against Syria which (a) violated the CFA’s notoriously prickly uniform rules and (b) promoted the use of an illegal drug, will not be suspended. WEF, wary of running afoul of the campaign for a Drug Free China, will not identify the drug, but we can refute the rumor that Zeng asked that the match time be changed to 4:20.
Make of all this what you will. One example of something you might think is that the CFA has it’s thumb on the scale. Again.
Fu Huan fails to fill Yu Hai’s role
Hulk, Yu and Pereira were missed, none more than Yu, who was replaced in the line-up by Zhang Wei and strategically by Fu Huan, who took on Yu’s role as a back willing to move into the attack. Wang Shenchao, usually adventurous, was perhaps pinned down by a move to center back, taking the position usually occupied by He Guan. Wang’s shift worked defensively – Jiangsu got very few chances – but Fu was a disaster when SIPG was on the move, giving the ball away repeatedly and contributing nothing creatively.
Nevertheless, SIPG had the lion’s share of the opportunities. A second-half Lue Wenjun goal was disallowed when Wu Lei was called offside for allegedly moving an inch or two past a defender halfway across the field. VAR was inconclusive, as it would have to be under the circumstances, so the Bahraini refereeing crew, led by ACL and World Cup referee Nawaf Shukralla, let their “no goal” call stand. (Shukralla, who also refereed SIPG’s 4-0 victory over Evergrande last season, allowed a fairly rough match, but evenly so.)
In other scoring chances, Akhmedov’s shot returned from it’s season-long hiatus. The Uzbeki had two second-half rockets from outside the box, one just missing and one, heartbreakingly, the victim of a lovely, 91st minute save by Jiangsu keeper Gu Chao.
Elkeson (18’) and Wu Lei (58’) both missed headers right in front of the goal they probably thought they should have made, and after a completely flat start from SIPG, Wu ignited a flurry with a sixteenth minute chip just past midfield from the right sideline that came within a couple of feet of catching Gu out.
Odds and ends
Wu Lei didn’t score against Jiangsu, of course, but Ighalo also failed to tally for Changchun at Gongti and Wu is still three goals up in the race for the Golden Boot.
The clean sheet for Jiangsu was only the third time in 39 matches in all competitions this year that SIPG’s opposition has managed the feat. Renhe did it in a Cup match (SIPG won anyway in a penalty shootout) and in the CSL, Dalian pulled it off at the Dalian Sports Center in what remains the most intense and contentious match SIPG has played to date. The 1-0 Dalian win, on August 5, is SIPG’s last losing outing.
The draw was the first time Jiangsu gathered any points against SIPG – not counting a dead rubber at the end of the 2017 CSL season – in more than two years of CSL and Asian Champion’s League matches.
SIPG hosts Shandong at the Stadium on Sunday night. Earlier in the day, Evergrande will play in Guiyang. As unlikely as it seemed a few weeks ago, SIPG has some reason to think Guizhou could give them some help. Evergrande may be looking past Guizhou to SIPG, and after a decisive win this weekend at home against Dalian, Guizhou finds themselves with new hope that they can avoid relegation.
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