Chinese column: Shandong passed the test

A very intense match between number one from Guangzhou Evergrande and number two from Shandong Luneng was played Saturday night in the south of China. Evergrande is still far the best team in China, but Shandong played very clever and got a point.

All football fans in China were ready for the big match on Saturday, where Evergrande faced number two in the league. And it was an interesting game, where Shandong came for one point while Evergrande was trying, and trying and trying to get the winning goal.

The chosen defensive tactic from Radomir Antic was very clear and simple; A solid defensive organization with 8-9 man behind the ball all the time, everyone worked extremely hard and closed down the areas where Conca normally is best, and when Shandong won the ball, they played as fast as possible in the counter attack to try to get a surprising goal.

And you could see the reaction from the Shandong players after the match. They were very happy to get a point and maybe felt this as a victory, while Evergrande looked very disappointed. So applause for Antic and Shandong – their tactic was a success even though the opponents from time to time were lucky, because Marcello Lippi’s side had some big chances and Geng Xiaofeng had a good game in the goal as well.

In general there is two ways of facing an opponent when you know the team is better than your own team. You can stay low and try to clear everything and win a point just like Shandong. Or you can attack them with high pressure, try to smash their rhythm and make them feel uncomfortable. This offensive tactic will make sure the game is played as you like it and not as the opponents coaching team has planned, which makes the key difference.

The last five extra minutes of the game was only about survival for Shandong, and Evergrande came close to score the winning goal several times, but a good mentality and moral helped Shandong to the end. When you analyze the two teams – there is no doubt that Evergrande is a far better team.

  • Evergrande have played together as a team under the same coach for a longer time than Shandong

  • Evergrande’s offensive players are better in terms of individual skills than the Shandong offense

  • Evergrande have a bigger squad, which means they can bring in quality players from the bench

  • Evergrande have more experience in top matches from the last years + Asian Champions League games

So when everything is calculated Evergrande should be able to win the game 8/9 out of 10 games, but a good result for the league with 0-0, so Evergrande not to early be the only team aiming for the championship.

Regarding Evergrande’s performance, then I’m still surprised that Gao Lin is on the bench. He is a top player and he can play all 3-4 offensive positions for Evergrande, so I would have played him instead of number 7 Feng Junyan. Also maybe brought in Lucas Barrios before the 62.minutes as he has showed good form and clinical finishing in the recent month.

But a good game, lot of intensity and tempo and this is important for the development of Chinese football. Remember football is a part of the entertainment business, so the owners, teams, coaches, and players need to win and entertain if the game of football has to keep develop in China like in Europe.

The Shanghai Derby

I saw a ‘crazy’ game at Yuanshen Sports Centre Stadium Sunday night. Shenxin started the game very well, controlling the ball and creating a few chances, but then Wu Lei scored and in general East Asia scored on almost every chance, they had. It’s difficult to face an opponent who has a perfect day, and East Asia almost scored on everything + the fact that the Shenxin keeper had a horrible day in the goal.

I have in the recent weeks questioned East Asia’s ability to score goals without the goals from Wu Lei and even without his hat trick (3 goals in one game) – East Asia was 100 % clinical Sunday night. They got some easy chances after Shenxin mistakes, and they punished the home side every time. Pure finishing quality by East Asia.

If we analyze the tactical difference in the match, Shenxin played a 4-4-1-1 without the ball, but as soon as they got the ball, they turned into a 4-3-3 formation with number 20 Wang Yun, 19 Kieza, and 21 Liu Junnan as the offensive line. Their style was to build up from the defense often by number 26 Johnny finding number 33 Zhu Baojie in the center of the pitch, and he would on his first or second touch play the ball in between the East Asia defensive line and midfield line, where Shenxin number 20 or number 23 found space. This caused East Asia some problems during the game.

In general Shenxin is very good at finding space and using free space on the pitch. They often move their wingers inside the pitch, so they have a lot of players in the center of the pitch to play their possession style. In periods – they played very well on Sunday in the Shanghai Derby. It’s important when we analyze football not to only look at the result and think everything was bad for Shenxin due to losing 1-6.

Actually, I had the feeling that they could come back in the game until the defying 1-4 goal. Number 11 – the left full back – Jiang Zhipeng – was also performing very well. Solid 1vs1 defensive and very strong 1vs1 in the offensive part and always with quality crosses. A player to follow together with number 33 and number 21. Good young, Chinese prospects at Shenxin.

Shenxin also tried with a defensive back 3 line and an extra striker – number 32 Jiang Xiaochen, but the risk failed and East Asia punished them on counter attacks and won 1-6 in the end. East Asia had a good back four on Sunday, not giving much away and defending very well. And number 10 Zhu Zhenrong played his best game in the season. Not only as the goal scorer, he was also a leader and a very intelligent footballer and very important for the team.

Wu Lei was not so much in touch with the ball, but in some situations he showed his skills and quality and of course – 3 goals is amazing. Finally – Wu Lei is on the national team of China. I have been asking for this for several months.

CSL update

In other analyze from this past weekend; it was good to see Jiangsu win and maybe find back to their level from last season after a very important 2-1 win against Greentown. Wuhan and Changchun both got a point in the button of the table, but it still looks like four teams are going to fight to avoid relegation: Tianjin, Changchun, Wuhan, and maybe SIPG even after the smashing Derby victory on Sunday.