Hongkou Happiness for Martins and co.

1026162482Shanghai Shenhua 2-1 Guangzhou Evergrande
Saturday 13th August 2016
Hongkou Stadium

Shanghai Shenhua gave their AFC Champions League qualification hopes a huge boost after climbing to third in the CSL following yet another win against one of their rivals.

A brace from Obafemi Martins was enough to claim all three-points at the Hongkou Stadium where the hosts remain unbeaten all season.

In sweltering conditions, Shenhua made the brighter start with Cao Yunding breaking away down the left. The pacey winger opted to shoot instead of using the numerical advantage his teammates had created on the overlap down the right.

But just two minutes later, the home side took the lead. Zheng Zhi lost possession cheaply in his defensive third, which allowed Giovanni Moreno to pounce. The club captain found Martins on the edge of the area and the Nigerian’s quick feet created the space before slotting into the far corner.

Five minutes later, Moreno dispossessed his opponent on the hallway line and tried to play Martins in again. The Colombian took to long to release the ball, which allowed the gaps in Guangzhou’s defence to close.

In reply, Guangzhou created an opportunity for Paulinho to head towards goal from ten-yards. The Brazilian’s effort was weak, as he failed to generate any power from a looping cross that lacked pace.

The away side did find an equaliser when Lin Gao scored from an unlikely angle. A combination of poor defending by Tao Jin and even worse goalkeeping by Li Shuai resulted in the league leaders drawing level.

Li Shuai made up for his error when he denied Paulinho’s first time shot with a good save. At this point, Guangzhou Evergrande was beginning to gain a foothold in the game.

Alan – who scored the winner when these two sides met in April – broke Shenhua’s offside trap but could only find the side netting from the right channel.

A quarter of the way through, Cao Yunding wasted another good opportunity as he delayed his shot long enough for it to be blocked out for a corner.

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Moreno and Martins embrace at the final whistle.

Shenhua were starting to look most threatening on the counterattack and Martins nearly doubled his tally when he was allowed to carry the ball for over 40-yards. The former Newcastle forward dragged his shot wide as the defensive pressure increased.

With only a few minutes of the half remaining, Martins and Shenhua got their second of the game.

Following a throw-in, Martins reacted quickest to the loose ball and took one touch into the right corner of the area before letting fly with an early strike. His well-struck shot seemed to catch Zeng Cheng in the Guangzhou goal slightly flat-footed as the ball nestled into the bottom corner.

It was a great finish celebrated in his usual acrobatic style that wouldn’t look too out of place at the Olympics.

Shanghai Shenhua took their lead into the break with the supporters creating plenty of noise.

The second half was a far cagier affair with fewer opportunities for either side. But just after the hour mark, Ricardo Goulart’s glancing header struck the crossbar as the reigning Champions went in search of an equaliser.

Martinez

Martinez missed a great chance to equalise late on.

Little else happened until the final couple of minutes. Jackson Martinez – a 70th minute substitute – was presented with his side’s best chance of the match. The £35.2m signing from Atletico Madrid hit the post from six-yards when it appeared easier to score. Paulinho then had his follow-up blocked before the ball was cleared away from danger.

It was a big let-off for Shenhua who despite being the better side, nearly surrendered their victory in the final moments.

Fortunately for Gregorio Manzano’s side, they held on to complete consecutive home wins against Guangzhou Evergrande, Jiangsu and SIPG. The top three teams prior to kick-off.

For Luiz Felipe Scolari and his team, their 11-point lead can be reduced to eight if Jiangsu Suning defeat bottom-side Changchun Yatai away on Sunday.

The Blue Devils will be keeping a close eye on Jiangsu’s game, as they’ll be facing them on Wednesday evening in the CFA Cup semifinal.