In the second round of Chinese Super League, Shanghai Port beat Shenzhen 3-2 in a rollercoaster of a game. Tyias Browning was sent off for his failed last-man tackle against Frank Acheampong at the 53rd-minute mark, having given the team a 1-0 lead in the first half. Port went on to expand their lead but Shenzhen used their numerical advantage to equalise 6 minutes from the end of regulation time, only for Wu Lei to assassinate the game and ensure a home win for Port even as the attendance was heavily limited by police. Markus Pink, Port’s newly signed Austrian Centre Foward scored the second goal for the home team after dazzling teamwork inside the penalty area.
The goal is a great relief to Port fans as they long complained about the team’s lack of a decent poacher. The former Klagenfurt man, which Oriental Sports Daily, the city’s sports newspaper of the record described as shy and family mined, spent less than 150 minutes to open his scoring account. In comparison, N’diaye, Port’s much-maligned front big man last season had to spend 189 minutes to score a goal and was visibly out of sync with the team last year, when opponents were much weaker.
According to the profile in the Oriental Sports Daily, Pink had only had five practice sessions before making his debut in the first league game against defending champions Wuhan Three Towns and his teammates generally felt that he was keeping a low profile.
According to the report, Pink, who has just joined the team, started the match over winger Issa Kallon, who was in great form in the preseason friendlies. The move might have surprised many as Kallon’s speed was already seen as a major asset in the second half of last season. One detail that showed that Pink is indeed still in the process of settling in. In the first game after the pre-match group photo, Shanghai Port players formed a circle to cheer each other on, and before taking their respective positions, they all high-fived each other, while Pink was ready to run to the centre circle first, only to come back and join the group when he realised what was going on.
In starting Pink, Port head coach Javier Pereira gave a clear signal to use his holding and assisting ability at centre forward to create space for the rest of the team. In the first game playing away from home, it was to be expected that the team would be stuck in a passive position for some time. And Pink was there to give the team a pivot up front, relying on his positioning to buy time to switch formations.
Having only been with the team for two weeks, it was clear that Pink’s running and teammates’ passing were not yet a perfect match. But in the technical aspects of handling the ball with his feet and setting up teammates with his header, Pink showed some solid fundamental skills as a centre forward. Before scoring for himself, Pink made visible contributions to the team’s first three goals of the season as he took away the opponent’s centre-back in the middle, thus creating an opportunity for Paulinho and Browning at the back post.
It was also revealed that the general feeling among his teammates was that the new player was “very low-key”, probably because he had just arrived and because of the language barrier. Pinke did not communicate much with his teammates, but as confidence builds through wins and goals, optimism are high of avoiding a repeat of N’diaye, who has been sold to Turkey. After the end of the game, Pink picked up his mobile phone and made a video call to his wife. The team’s win clearly put him in a good mood, and the big man from Austria had a smile on his face as he looked into the camera and faced his family.