FA Cup Semi Final First Leg Roundup: Goalkeeping is world class and it’s all to play for in the second leg

The fairytale continued for Shanghai Shenxin as they drove the short journey across the Huangpu River from their home at the Yuanshen Sports Development Centre and to the Hongkou Stadium to face hosts and big brother Shanghai Shenhua in the first of the two semi-final clashes in the Chinese FA Cup on Tuesday. The other game was a big one as the first placed team in the Chinese Super League Guangzhou Evergrande took on the second placed team Shanghai SIPG.

Let’s get right to it, shall we?

Shanghai Shenhua 1 – 0 Shanghai Shenxin

Well… The dream is still alive for Shenxin and for neutrals that is perhaps the most important thing to take away from this game. The first thing close to a chance came after five minutes of play when a low cross just missed the outstretched foot of Obafemi Martins and the Shenxin goalkeeper Guo Wei almost fumbled the ball away but managed to catch his own rebound.

The first proper chance also fell to Shenhua as Giovanni Moreno tried a shot from distance three and a half minutes later, the Shenxin goalkeeper could do nothing but box the ball away straight at Martins but the ball came so fast that he didn’t have time to direct his header and the ball sailed wide.

Shanghai kept the attacks coming and created chance after chance but could not break through a resilient Shenxin defence, who had a couple chances but mostly from long range, so the score remained level when the teams trudged into the locker rooms at half time.

It only took eight minutes of the second half for Shenhua to break through though as a low cross from Mao Jianqing found Kim Kee-hee and the South Korean could slot the ball home from around the penalty spot, one small lapse in concentration from the Shenxin defence was all it took.

Martins then once again went agonisingly close just four minutes later, but keeper Wei, who was doing his best impression of an octopus/Spider-Man, managed to get a toe to the ball (seriously, go find the highlights and watch that save, it is ridiculous).

Shenxin had some pretty big opportunities to pull level but it was mainly about Shenhua as they fought to put more distance between the two teams, but to no avail. Chance after chance after was saved, either by Wei, the crossbar or blocked by a defender who was pretending to play ice hockey.

So the teams will meet up again in one month’s time to play the second leg on the other side of the Huangpu river, and hope is not lost for Shanghai Shenxin, the little club that could.

Shanghai SIPG 2 – 1 Guangzhou Evergrande

The heavyweight fight that was greatly anticipated didn’t disappoint, it was a nail-biter that went down to the wire.

The hosts had the first shot on target as Hulk sent a shot straight into the arms of the goalkeeper after just over a minutes play while it took Evergrande ten more minutes to register their first big chance. A free kick by Liao Lisheng had the SIPG keeper boxing the ball out to safety as he didn’t even try to hold the shot. Alan then went close a few minutes later before Evergrande finally broke through.

A corner was swung in from the right and Evergrande captain Liu Jian headed it home. Perhaps SIPG should have had a free kick as a defender went down in the box but the referee did not give it. SIPG then spent the rest of the first half trying to get even and hit the post just minutes before the break, but to no avail.

Over in the second half SIPG continued where they left off and had one big chance before the breakthrough finally came after 54 minutes. Hulk crossed the ball low into the box from a short distance and the keeper tried to get his hands on it but only knocked it back in to play where Odil Ahmedov was waiting to smash the ball into the net.

The SIPG pressure continued to mount and it was clear they had the momentum that Evergrande had for much of the first half. A shot from Ahmedov hit the post while Hulk’s belter from long range was saved. Evergrande had a few long punts of their own with Yu Hanchao curling a ball in to the post and out in to the diving goalkeeper’s boot, but unfortunately for Evergrande the ball didn’t bounce in.

As both teams were going for the winner it was SIPG that came up on the winning side. Just as the match moved in to the added time a free kick was curled into the box. At the back post had He Guan managed to free himself of any markers and could perform a diving header that inched past the Evergrande keeper’s outstretched hand and into the near corner. The home fans erupted in joy and they now take a slim lead to the lion’s den next month.

2nd Leg Matches:

19/09 KO – 12:35 UK TIME:

Guangzhou Evergrande – Shanghai SIPG

 Shanghai Shenxin – Shanghai Shenhua