Shenhua take provincial honours

1026162482Shanghai Shenhua 3-2 Jiangsu Suning
Saturday 30th July 2016
Hongkou Stadium

Known as the Yangtze Delta Derby, Shanghai Shenhua took on Jiangsu Suning in the first Chinese Super League match televised live on Sky Sports.

There was an added motive besides provincial pride with both teams looking to at least end the season in the top three and cement a place in next year’s Asian Champions League.

Sitting fifth prior to kick-off and two-points off third, Gregorio Manzano’s side were quick out of the blocks as they looked to extend their season-long unbeaten run at home to 13 in all competitions (W9, D3).

After just five minutes, Shenhua captain, Giovanni Moreno had an acrobatic scissor-kick from a corner sensationally saved by Gu Chao in the Jiangsu goal.

Just two minutes later, Obafemi Martins raced clear down the right but saw his low-effort saved once again by Gu Chao.

Shenhua’s Cao Yunding was causing all kinds of problems – as he often has throughout this campaign – and the diminutive winger nearly broke the deadlock after cutting in from the left and shooting just over.

Jiangsu had to withstand a great deal of pressure but they nearly took the lead following a counter-attack from yet another Shenhua corner.

But Shenhua nearly responded instantly when Moreno slipped Cao Yunding in down the left with a clever flicked pass. The Chinese player’s early ball across the box was too close to Gu Chao despite Martins’ best efforts.

Roger Martinez

Martinez (right) at former club Racing Club.

After a whirlwind opening, Jiangsu scored against the run of play in the 21st minute. Recent Colombian acquisition, Roger Martinez, saw his near-post diving header somehow loop into the far corner. It was a fortuitous and undeserved goal for the second-placed side.

Just seven-minutes later, however, a clumsy challenge on Martins saw the linesman flag for a penalty while the referee appeared unmoved by the incident. After consultation, the spot-kick was awarded despite protests from several Jiangsu players. Fredy Guarin stepped up and emphatically converted from 12-yards.

The game calmed down for a moment until a few minutes before half-time. Former Asian transfer record holder and Liverpool target, Alex Teixiera, showed his class to help his side restore their lead. A deft and disguised through ball caught Shenhua’s defence flat-footed, allowing Martinez to claim his and Jiangsu’s second of the game.

It was a blow for Shenhua given the timing of the goal and the fact Jiangsu’s hadn’t warranted their advantage going into the break. Their misery was further compounded when they lost first choice keeper, Li Shuai, to injury before the start of the second half.

His replacement, Geng Xiaofeng, was called into action immediately when he had to react well to Martinez’s near-post flick. The 22-year-old forward has made an immediate impact with five goals in just three games.

Before the hour mark, Cao Yunding, came close to scoring with another effort from range. After skipping past two defenders, the 26-year-old and Xu Genbao Academy graduate, shot inches away from the top corner.

Not to be discouraged, Cao Yunding had the ball at his feet once again. He ran at Jiangsu’s back peddling defence before slipping a well-weighted pass for Martins to finish first time. It was a thoroughly deserved equaliser for the home side in front of their ever-singing supporters.

Jiangsu Suning were rattled and just after an hour’s play, Martins should have given his side the lead. Right-winger, Lu Zheng, found the former Newcastle forward less than ten-yards from goal but he lifted his half-volley high over the bar.

Five minutes later, Moreno nearly scored with an audacious and improvised rabona that went just wide of Gu Chao’s peppered goal. The tall Colombian playmaker is popular amongst the locals who enjoy such moments of creativity.

During an intense phase of attacking football from Shenhua, Guarin broke down the right channel. He squared the ball for Martins who was denied a tap-in by Trent Sainsbury’s last-ditch tackle. It was a fantastic piece of defending by the Australian international but he would suffer just ten minutes later.

Fredy Guarin

Guarin helped his side with two goals.

Cao Yunding provided the lay-off for Guarin’s well-struck effort from distance. Unfortunately for Jiangsu, it deflected off Sainsbury and past Gu Chao to give Shanghai Shenhua the lead in the 79th minute.

Jiangsu pressed for an equaliser, which left more opportunities for Shenhua’s counter-attack. But they couldn’t find the equaliser as Shenhua claimed the victory that sees them climb to third in the table ahead of Sunday’s fixtures.

As they acknowledged all ends of the ground after the final whistle, the Shenhua players wore t-shirts dedicated to Demba Ba – who suffered a broken leg during the Shanghai derby two weeks ago.

Man of the match:
Cao Yunding

A menace down Jiangsu’s right throughout, the right-footed pacey winger – who plays down the left – provided two assists and was a key outlet for the home side. For those who appreciate a nostalgic reference, he’s like a Chinese version of former Southampton player, Fabrice Fernandes.