Shenhua boss admits recruitment mistakes as team held goalless at home

Shenhua draws 0-0 with Shandong Luneng at home while the club's president admits making mistakes in choosing the manager and foreign players at the beginning of the CSL season.

Shanghai Greenland Shenhua was held to a goalless draw by Felix Magath’s Shandong Luneng in their Chinese Super League match at Hongkou Football Stadium on Tuesday.

Having suffered five successive league defeats coming into the match, including last Saturday’s humiliating 1-6 derby drubbing by city rival SIPG at Shanghai Stadium, the draw with a team lying fifth in the 16-team CSL standings was a welcome relief.

Captain Giovanni Moreno continued to be one of the busiest players on the pitch while Fredy Guarin, who like striker Carlos Tevez was earlier criticized over his fitness, also made a return, coming on as a second-half substitute.

“We didn’t win the match, but didn’t lose either,” Guarin said afterwards. “The result gives the team a chance to take a break.”

“Despite all the pressure after our last defeat, the players were working hard,” Shenhua’s new manager Wu Jingui said at the post-match press conference. “We didn’t create many chances, but our defense was good. It’s important to stop the team from losing first.”


Shanghai Greenland Shenhua manager Wu Jingui gives directions to his playing during the team's Chinese Super League match against Shandong Luneng at Hongkou Football Stadium on September 19, 2017.

The match was meant to be played in April, but was put back after a fire broke out at Hongkou Football Stadium in March.

Shenhua is now 11th in the table on 25 points with five more rounds to go. After Saturday’s humiliation, the club has been engaged in discussion with media and fans.

“It’s a difficult time for the club,” Shenhua club president Wu Xiaohui said on a live TV program on Monday. “The reasons are complicated. But as managing officials, we are responsible. As club president, I take full responsibility.”

“I want to apologize to the fans and answer some fans’ doubts about the club. At the beginning of the season, we did not do well in picking the (right) head coach and foreign players,” Wu said, adding that he understood fans have been left were wondering about where Shenhua would be now had the club retained its Spanish coach Gregorio Manzano instead of hiring Uruguay's Gus Poyet.

“But there are no ‘ifs’ in football. From my side, I wanted to keep Manzano with the club. But there were certain contract details on which we could not reach an agreement. Also, we saw a decline in the team’s performance at the end of last season, and hoped that a change of manager would help improve the team. I have to say Poyet was our third or fourth best choice at that time.”


Shanghai Shenhua club president Wu Xiaohui

Wu also admitted that bringing Tevez to Shanghai has not panned out well enough and that the highly-paid player had not met the club’s expectation. The Argentina striker scored only his third CSL goal in Shenhua’s 1-6 defeat to SIPG on Saturday.

“He joined the club after a tiring season without taking part in winter training. (New coach) Wu Jingui is already making special training plans for him and he has been working hard.”

Wu said the suspension of players like Qin Sheng (who served a six-month ban for stamping on Tianjin Quanjian defender Axel Witsel) and injuries to key defenders had affected the team’s performance. The fire that broke out at Hongkou Football Stadium in March, which forced Shenhua to play away matches at a stretch, also added to the difficulty.

Wu said the club’s primary task for coach Wu, who took over from Poyet last week, is to keep the team in the CSL. The second task is to make sure that Shenhua reaches the final of this year’s CFA Cup (by beating second-tier team Shanghai Shenxin) and even set sights on the cup title."

Shenhua could meet SIPG in the final as its derby rival leads defending CSL champion Guangzhou Evergrande 2-1 after the first leg of their semifinal. Shenhua leads Shenxin 1-0, with the second leg to be played on September 29.

“We chose Wu Jingui because he is familiar with the team and has encountered similar situations before. He is someone who can lead the team onto the right path,” added Wu.

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