Shenhua loses second straight, SIPG soars

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail SHINE, March 11, 2019
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Shanghai Greenland Shenhua is still waiting for its first point of the 2019 Chinese Super League after losing 1-2 at home to Hebei China Fortune on Sunday, while defending champion Shanghai SIPG edged Jiangsu Suning 3-2 to maintain its smooth start to the season.

At Hongkou Football Stadium, Shenhua manager Enrique "Quique" Sanchez Flores made five changes to his starting line-up that had lost to city rival SIPG in the CSL opener last week, including replacing Colombia striker Fredy Guarin with Paraguay midfielder Oscar Romero.

Shenhua looked in control in the opening half an hour but it was Hebei that broke the deadlock. Morocco striker Ayoub El Kaabi got rid of Shenhua defender Bi Jinhao in a counterattack in the 30th minute and sent the ball into the back of the net, beating goalkeeper Li Shuai.

The visitors' joy lasted only three minutes as new signing, Nigeria striker Odion Ighalo, equalized with his first goal for Shenhua.

In the second half, Hebei made use of Shenhua's porous defense to regain the lead. Shenhua defender Li Peng didn't quite clear a long ball into the box by Hebei's Yi Hongbo during a counterattack in the 65th. The ball fell into Dong Xuesheng's path and the latter changed the score to 2-1 for the visitors.

On Saturday, SIPG established a dominant 3-0 advantage early at Shanghai Stadium, but allowed Jiangsu to pull two goals back in the second half.

SIPG manager Vitor Pereira rotated his players and their positions, especially in defense. An own goal by Jiangsu midfielder Wang Song gave the hosts a dream start 90 seconds into kickoff. Three minutes later, Lin Chuangyi assisted Zhang Wei for SIPG's second goal.

A long-shot from outside of the box by SIPG defender Lu Wenjun two minutes after the break enlarged the hosts' advantage to three goals. But Jiangsu held its nerve and a brace by Xie Tengfei, who came on as a substitute in the second half and scored in the 65th and 69th minutes, made for a tense finish and atmosphere at Shanghai Stadium.

In his post-match press conference, Pereira praised his players for their performance after a change in formation. He said fatigue was the reason why his team conceded two goals in the second half — fatigue caused by a tight playing schedule.

"We need to find solutions for the problems (tight schedule)," said the Portuguese. "We played the same players in lots of matches last year, and we won't make the same mistakes this year. We need to build up other players' confidence and let them know they can help the team, too. We will let players try different positions in training."

SIPG's major league rivals Guangzhou Evergrande and Beijing Guo'an also managed to pocket the full six points from the opening two rounds. Evergrande beat Tianjin Teda 1-0 at home on Friday while Guo'an defeated Chongqing SWM 4-0 in an away match on Saturday.

In other second-round matches, Shandong Luneng drew 2-2 with Henan Jianye; Guangzhou R&F drew 3-3 with Dalian Yifang; and Shenzhen FC beat Tianjin Tianhai 2-1.

The CSL is entering a 20-day break to give way to the China Cup which will be held in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. SIPG will continue its AFC journey, however, taking on K League side Ulsan Hyundai at Ulsan Munsu Football Stadium on Wednesday.

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