Shanghai spark as Shenhua, SIPG soar

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail SHINE, October 21, 2019
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It was a pleasant enough a weekend for Shanghai football fans as both Greenland Shenhua and SIPG claimed crucial victories in the 26th round of the Chinese Super League.

Shenhua came from behind to beat Rafael Benitez's Dalian Yifang 2-1 at Hongkou Football Stadium on Sunday, while SIPG overcame Beijing Guoan 2-0 a day earlier to keep alive its hope of defending the league title.

Dalian is no stranger to Shenhua head coach Choi Kang-hee, as the South Korean used to lead Dalian before being replaced by the former Liverpool and Newcastle manager in July. Soon, Choi replaced Enrique Sanchez Flores to become Shenhua boss, where he was tasked with leading the team out of the relegation zone.

At Hongkou, Dalian's Yannick Carrasco scored probably one of the fastest goals of this year's CSL — just 47 seconds into kickoff.

Shenhua captain Giovanni Moreno equalized for the hosts in the 24th minute with a header on Cao Yunding's assist.

Play was interrupted several times after half an hour as players from both sides got involved in altercations on the pitch. A total of five yellow cards were flashed by referee Wang Zhe.

Shenhua took the lead in the 38th when Cao contributed another assist from almost the same position for Odion Ighalo. The Nigerian volleyed the ball into the back of the net to give Shenhua a 2-1 lead before the break.

Both sides created several chances in the second half but the score remained unchanged.

Benitez did not hide his disappointment about the match.

"Too many things happened in the match," the Spaniard told reporters. "There were a lot of fouls and breaks. Nobody is happy."

Dalian will next take on defending champion SIPG at Shanghai Stadium on October 27.

"Every match will be a difficult one. We will train hard and try to find solutions during the match," said Benitez.

Choi, on the other hand, praised his players' performance at the post-match press conference.

"Though we are not out of the relegation zone yet, we won an important match today. I want to thank my players for fighting until the last minute," said Choi. "Compared to playing 'pretty', winning matches is more important for us."

Shenhua is now 11th in the 16-team CSL standing on 30 points. Dalian is 8th on 34 points.

On Saturday, SIPG beat Guoan 2-0 in Beijing to overtake the latter for second place in the standing on 59 points — three points off Fabio Cannavaro's Guangzhou Evergrande.

Before the match, SIPG was third, two points behind Guoan. Despite the absence of Austria striker Marko Arnautovic, who is yet to recover from the injury he picked up when playing for his national team, SIPG was aggressive from the start. But Beijing regained control in the latter part of the first half.

The stalemate was broken after the break. Li Shenglong's header on Lu Wenjun's pass gave SIPG the lead four minutes into the second half.

SIPG's Brazil striker Hulk picked up an injury when fighting for the ball in the 59th and was replaced by Chen Binbin.

SIPG then strengthened its defense and seized another opportunity on a counterattack in the 66th. Odil Ahmedov beat Guoan goalie Zou Dehai one-on-one to double the lead for the visitors.

"We changed our 4-3-3 formation back to five defenders after taking the lead to lure our opponents to the wings, and then went for counterattack opportunities by high-position interceptions, which the players did well," SIPG manager Vitor Pereira said after the match.

The Portuguese said previously that SIPG would treat every remaining match in the season as a final to fight for a better position. Statistics showed SIPG players ran a total of nine kilometers more than Guoan players during the match.

The 2019 CSL has four more rounds to go. SIPG will take on leader Evergrande in Guangzhou in a showpiece encounter on November 23.

"We know the situation well, and we still have the chance to fight for the championship," said Brazil midfielder Oscar. "But currently, the most important thing is the next match (against Dalian Yifang), then we will take on Guangzhou. We will take it one by one."

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