Towel row, scuffles in bitter SIPG-Quanjian draw

AFP
Tianjin players posed with white towels after the game, an ironic nod to a first-half dispute with SIPG over the visitors using towels to dry the ball for throw-ins.
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Imaginechina

Brazil striker Alexandre Pato (right) of Tianjin Quanjian, clashes with Shanghai SIPG's Uzbekistan midfielder Odil Ahmedov during their Chinese Super League match at Shanghai Stadium on August 6, 2017. The match ended goalless.

Fabio Cannavaro's Tianjin Quanjian took aim at rival Shanghai SIPG on Monday following a bad-tempered draw in the Chinese Super League punctuated by incidents on and off the field — including over a towel.

Opposing fans briefly scuffled outside Shanghai Stadium following Sunday's 0-0 stalemate, according to videos on social media, while on the pitch there were several flashpoints between players and staff of the two sides.

Tianjin players posed with white towels after the game, an ironic nod to a first-half dispute with Andre Villas-Boas's Shanghai over the visitors using towels to dry the ball for throw-ins.

At one point during the match a ballboy and member of Tianjin's staff wrestled for a towel on the sidelines, and the Tianjin official was consequently ordered away from the side of the pitch.

Villas-Boas and members of Cannavaro's backroom staff also engaged in a slanging match, but both managers were tight-lipped after the game.

Tianjin, however, was more forthright on Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter.

"We condemn any form of soccer hooliganism under any circumstances, location or reason," Tianjin, third in the CSL, said in a statement.

"We hope that all teams and fans on the away side can fully enjoy and shout their support and safely return home."

The post accompanied a picture of Shanghai fans and one of their banners reading: "Viewing with virtue, shouting with technique, wild with restraint."

But in the statement Tianjin said pointedly that slogans "should be implemented in action".

In response SIPG urged its fans to behave "in a civilized manner".

"As a football team in Shanghai we constantly keep in mind that our words and deeds should be worthy of the glory of the city," the club said on Weibo.

The weekend draw left Shanghai second, three points off leader and reigning champion Guangzhou Evergrande.

Prolonged absence

Villas-Boas, meanwhile, fears that the prolonged absence of banned Brazilian star Oscar could torpedo SIPG's league title hopes.

Having watched the goalless stalemate against Tianjin, Villas-Boas was left to rue the absence of attacking midfielder Oscar, the Asian-record, 60-million-euro (US$70.76 million) man who is reaching the end of an eight-game ban for triggering a brawl in a CSL game in June.

Oscar returns this month but former Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur manager Villas-Boas believes it is no coincidence that his team has hit a rough patch of form during the player's lengthy suspension.

"It was the decision by the CFA (Chinese Football Association) to suspend one of the best players in the world for eight games, so what can we do?" a clearly frustrated Villas-Boas asked after the game.

"Of course we miss Oscar. It's been a long spell without him... it's just too much.

"We brought him for a reason. We ended up loaning one of the most creative players last season, (the Argentine Dario) Conca, to Brazil and creativity is one of the things of my teams and of course we miss players of his caliber.

"Our bad spell corresponds to the fact that we had Oscar suspended for eight games."

The CFA banned Oscar after accusing him of sparking an all-out brawl against Guangzhou R&F when he appeared to deliberately fire the ball at an opposing player.

In seven league games since, Shanghai has won only three times.

Villas-Boas and Cannavaro were unhappy with some of the officiating in Sunday's stalemate.

Shanghai's bruising forward Hulk and Tianjin's Alexandre Pato — two Brazil internationals — were at the center of a series of run-ins between the two sides.

Villas-Boas, already banned this season for two games for criticizing the Oscar suspension, and Italy's Cannavaro both declined to elaborate on their grievances, fearing CFA punishment.

"I prefer not to answer because it can be controversial," the Portuguese said, when asked if he felt that the away side had targeted Hulk.


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