By Orlando Crowcroft
Shanghai Shenhua snatched a last minute victory at Hongkou last night, beating newly promoted Jiangsu Sainty in their first league game of the 2009 season.
Two late goals saw Shenhua come from behind and avoid an embarrassing home defeat by their Nanjing-based rivals.
A dismal first half – the less said about which the better – gave way to a slightly better second, although it wasn’t until the last fifteen minutes that the game got interesting.
Jiangsu had looked like the winning team throughout the match, and it was no surprise when Colombian striker Carlos Ceballos, found the net late in the second half. The increasingly rowdy Shenhua fans started off calling Ceballos an asshole, and ten minutes later they were calling for the head of Shenhua’s coach Jia Xiuquan.
Perhaps buoyed by their noisy supporters, Shenhua suddenly came to life in the dying minutes of the game, with Bulgarian right-back Yanko Valkanov beating a scrum of players in the box to smash in an equaliser.
Shanghai’s very own Shen Yongyuan added another deep into injury time, causing pandemonium inside Hongkou.
The Blue Devils kept singing until well after the whistle went (except now it was ‘We will be Champions’ rather than ‘Sack the Coach’), as the Shenhua players stayed on the pitch to applaud them.
But for all the excitement, it goes without saying that Shenhua had a lucky escape last night. The Blues had better up their game before they take on Chengdu away from home next week, let alone before the home game against champions Shandong on 3 April.