Shenhua FC brought the curtain down on their 2005 season at Hong Kou Stadium with a 1-1 draw against Wuhan Huanghelou to clinch the runners-up spot in the China Super League (CSL), Shanghaiist observed Saturday afternoon.
The match had a distinct end-of-term feel to it, but it did provide it’s fair share of exciting moments. In a first half characterised by neither team appearing to want to take control of the match, the highlight was an outrageous and flamboyant piece of play from Wuhan goalkeeper Zeng Cheng. The youngster, faced with on-rushing Shenhua striker Saul Martinez, turned inside the Honduran forward, and calmly played the ball out of danger, amid generous applause from the crowd — making the Shenhua fan favourite look decidedly silly. Wuhan, last season’s China League (second division) champions, gave their more established opponents as good as they got and spurned several chances to take the lead. Shenhua didn’t take it lying down of course, and midfielder Xiao Zhanbo gave Wuhan’s Zeng Cheng further opportunity to impress the crowd. The 18-year-old twice kept the Shenhua playmaker at bay with two stunning saves from set-pieces.
The second half was a bit more lively and Shenhua kept up their curious habit of not bothering to play well until conceeding a goal. Wuhan duly took the lead on 53 minutes with a looping header from Tan Si. Shenhua finally got themselves in gear and equalized through Mao Jianqing 120 seconds later. After this, the game petered out into a scrappy affair, and towards the end of the match both sides looked extremely content with a draw, and so it finished, 1-1. The result saw Shenhua qualifiy for next season’s Asian Champions League. Shenhua’s loyal band of Blue Devil’s were fairly muted at the end of the game by their own high standards of enthusiasm. Perhaps it was due to the very muggy Shanghai afternoon — 22C and over 90 percent humidity, according to Accuweather.com.
Over in Pudong, Shanghai Zobon finished their last game of the season, and possibly ever, 2-1, against the outgoing champions Shenzhen Jianlibao. Zobon have been taken over by second division side Shanghai Ninth City FC, and Shanghaiist gathers that the two teams will merge. Owner of Ninth City, on-line gaming baron Zhu Jun, bought a 90 per cent stake in Zobon two weeks ago for 20 million yuan (US$2.47 million). The Shanghai Daily has also reported that Zhu Jun intends to spend big and has designs on bringing a Brazilian coach and a clutch of players from the South American footballing giant to Shanghai.
So where does that leave Shanghai’s other top-league outfit, Inter? Shanghaiist heard today that fresh moves are afoot for the club to be bought out and moved to Xian in west China. A previous attempt at this failed last December, Sinosoc reported. However, that would appear to be an odd move — Inter and Shenhua are the only teams in Shanghai with any kind of dedicated fanbase. Regardless of this, Shanghai could have two, three or possibly four teams in next season’s CSL.
However, as always in the bizarre world of Chinese Football, nothing is ever certain — teams are bought out, renamed and re-located overnight. Shanghaiist suspects not even the league bosses themselves will be sure of who’s who until the curtain raises on next year’s CSL stage and reveals the participants’ identites.
Also in Shanghaiist:
End of season apathy
Shanghai soccer star on the verge of Scottish League Debut
Pride of Shanghai