The blog has been idle due to a trip with limited to none access to internet which meant that I missed the opening round of the Chinese Super League. Yesterday round two kicked off and I decided to see one of the two Shanghai based clubs, SIPG, take on Yanbian Funde at home. SIPG, who are one of the challengers to this years league title, chose to fill their three foreign-player spots (the rule was changed just weeks before the season, leaving many clubs with too many non-chinese players after the last transfer window) with superstars Oscar and Hulk along with Uzbeki midfielder Odil Akhmetov. This meant the team would have to do without their third star-term Brazilian, Elkeson, but would show to be a good decision from manager André Villas-Boas as the new signing from FK Krasnodar was impressive and central to the build of play, as Shanghai dominated from kick-off.
Yanbian kept low in defending their goal but could not control the individual quality in the home side. Akhmetov, Oscar and Hulk found openings over and over in attacks, more often than not, finished by Wu Lei. Despite the dominance, the opening goal was not until a few minutes before half time, Hulk brushed a couple of defenders off out on the left, made his way into the penalty box and supplied a hard, low cross for Lu Wenjun to ease home into an open net.
The match looked about the same in the second half and less than a quarter of an hour in, Wu Lei finally got his goal. Cai Huikang won the ball at the edge of the offensive third from some sloppy touches of the ball on Yanbians midfield and served Wu Lei who, with all the cool he lacked in the first 45 minutes, slotted the ball home nicely, just inside one post after seemingly teeing up to put it by the other one.
Shanghai are looking serious in their attempt to end Guangzhou Evergrande’s reign supreme this season. Hulk keeps performing and new additions Oscar and Akhmetov seem to have settled in quickly, add the very reliable attacking force of Elkeson to the mix and Villas-Boas is left with some truly mouth watering options when deciding on his offensive line in games to come. As for Yanbian it can be said that their defensive mindset was far less successfull as last week (0-0 away to Chongqing Lifan) and that the very impressive number of fans who’d made the journey of over 900 miles (one way, as the crow flies), from across the Yellow Sea and North Korea, were treated to a lot worse than they deserved, football-wise.