Dramatic turnaround overshadowed by Ba’s horrific injury

Shanghai Shenhua 2-1 Shanghai SIPG
Sunday 17th July 2016
Hongkou Stadium

Highlights of this weekend’s goals (skip to 3:40 for the Shanghai derby goals)

Two goals in the last ten minutes of play, including an injury-time penalty, saw Shanghai Shenhua defeat local rivals Shanghai SIPG. But the broken leg Demba Ba suffered in the second half soured the taste of victory.

Sven Goran Eriksson’s SIPG were without playmaker Dario Conca and recent Asian record signing, Hulk, who got injured after scoring on his debut. Shenhua meanwhile, came into the game in fifth place and five points behind SIPG who sat in third, two-points off Jiangsu Suning.

Shenhua pitch

Shenhua’s pitch looked in desperate need of some TLC

The first half saw few opportunities as Shenhua had the majority of the possession but failed to breakthrough a defensive minded SIPG. The quality of the pitch didn’t help the spectacle with patches replaced and the surface regularly cutting up during a humid summer’s evening in Shanghai.

But just ten minutes after half-time, SIPG scored first thanks to Chinese star Wu Lei’s long-range effort. It was against the run of play but it was certainly a welcome event given how the first 45 minutes went.

Less than a quarter of an hour later, however, disaster struck for both Shenhua and Ba. It was an innocuous coming together, which saw the former Chelsea and Newcastle striker suffer a severely broken leg. His studs may have got caught in the poor turf, but what is clear is that he will be out of action for a similar period to Man Utd’s Luke Shaw – who is just returning to action after a ten-month lay-off.

Ba splint

Ba with a splint of sorts following his leg break

Fortunately, Ba appeared to receive better and more professional treatment than Ulan Konysbayev of Kazakhstan who broke his ankle against China during a friendly match early last month.

Shenhua managed to keep their heads despite the psychological blow of seeing a teammate suffer such an awful injury. Obafemi Martins – Ba’s replacement – injected a bit more speed into the side and their constant pressure on the SIPG goal paid off when the often impressive Cao Yunding equalised in the 87th minute with an emphatic drive from just beyond the penalty spot.

Then in the fifth of ten minutes added on for Ba’s treatment, Fredy Guarin converted from 12-yards to send the home fans delirious.

The penalty was awarded following an amateur version of a professional foul by Wang Jiajie who eventually brought down Shenhua captain, Giovanni Moreno, despite having a hold of his shirt for an eternity. The decision to complete the foul inside the area instead of outside was questionable at best, while the referee had no choice but to send him off. That is despite the recent introduction of new FIFA rules, which encourage referees to avoid the triple punishment (penalty award, red card and subsequent suspension) when a player doesn’t appear to commit the foul deliberately. Not the case here, however.

There was still time for Bai Jiajun to receive an unnecessary second yellow for time wasting while Moreno was lucky the referee failed to see his blatant kick out at Cai Huikang in the dying moments. Shanghai Shenhua’s captain leading by example.

Gregorio Manzano’s side now sits just two points off SIPG and Hebei who sit third and fourth respectively. Meanwhile, reigning champions, Guangzhou Evergrande, find themselves 13-points ahead of second-placed Jiangsu with 12 games remaining.


Demba Ba fall out:

Manzano originally claimed it could be a career ending injury for the 31-year old, which obviously did little to calm the concerns of Shenhua’s followers.

The league’s top scorer is reportedly being flown to France for the operation, which appears to be a wise move based on personal experience and general observations out here in Shanghai.

Shenhua hospital

Shenhua fans wait outside the hospital Ba was taken to on Sunday night

Shenhua supporters were out in force last night at the hospital where Ba was originally admitted. They awaited any updates from doctors regarding the situation of their footballing hero but the skeptics amongst us would wonder if they’d make the same efforts for a Chinese player or even their grandmother.

The irrational and tribal nature of a football supporter really is in full flow at the moment. Chinese football fans are an enthusiastic bunch but that coupled with the newly developing football culture means they have a tendency to go a step or two too far.

Sun Xiang restaurant pic

A dish for funerals

Many deluded Shenhua fans have accused Sun Xiang – captain of SIPG and the player who collided with Ba when he broke his leg – of intentionally committing the offence. In addition to demanding that he apologise – he has visited Ba in hospital – Shenhua fans have flocked to the restaurant he owns and initiated a sit in where they only ordered water and a particular dish associated with funerals.

Police were called to question those at the restaurant as social media reported the childish antics of grown adults who presumably had work to attend on Monday.

Police Shenhua

Police arrive at Sun Xiang’s restaurant to try and evict the silent protesters

Shanghai Shenhua have pissed petrol on the fire by releasing a statement that requests the CFA look further into several incidents during the match which involved Sun Xiang and Cai Huikang of SIPG.

Their claims seem impulsive, unreasonable and plain foolish, particularly when one of the incidents includes the moment Moreno kicked out at Huikang. To say the football world has gone potty out here is an understatement. Unfortunately, this only adds credence to the idea that China can’t reach its ultimate goals in football if this is the culture within which it operates.