By Orlando Crowcroft
Shanghai Shenhua crushed ten man Singapore Armed Forces at Hongkou Stadium last night, getting their Asian Champions League campaign off to a storming start.
A first half penalty and three goals in the last 17 minutes of the game saw Shenhua beat their Group G rivals 4 – 1 in their first competitive game of the season.
The penalty, and subsequent sending off of Warriors defender Hafiz Osman for handball inside the box, was neatly slotted away by Argentine striker Hernan Barcos in the 25th minute of the game.
But despite relentless attacks from Shenhua’s forwards, the visitors stayed in the game, clawing a goal back in the 62nd minute when John Wilkinson latched on to a long ball before beating goalkeeper Zhang Chen one-on-one.
For a moment it looked like the Singaporeans were making a comeback, but it turned out the goal was just what Shenhua needed to wake them up.
Buoyed by their increasingly noisy fans at either end of the pitch, they came back with a new fury, dominating the last 20 minutes of the game.
Playmaker Yu Tao scored a rebound after Aussie defender Mark Miligan’s long shot hit the post and substitute Yin Xifu extended Shenhua’s lead in the 84th minute.
Barcos – whose constant atacks on the Warriors’ defence had left the 10 man visitors reeling – scored his second goal in stoppage time, heading it in after Yin’s corner put the ball nicely into the box.
At the final whistle the team applauded their ever-loyal – and noisy – fans at both ends of the pitch.
Shenhua’s next ACL game is an away fixture next Wednesday, when they play Japanese giants Kashima Antlers. The Chinese league starts on 21 March.