Didier Drogba made an instant impact on
his debut for Chinese Super League side Shanghai Shenhua on Sunday,
setting up his new team’s equaliser in a 1-1 draw away to Guangzhou
The former Chelsea striker started the game on the bench but came on
at half time, almost scoring with his first touch of the ball — an
outrageous 40-yard free kick which Guangzhou goalkeeper Cheng Yuelei
Shenhua had struggled in the first half after falling behind to an
unfortunate own goal by Brazilian defender Moises on 21 minutes, but the
introduction of Drogba instantly transformed the visitors’ fortunes.
The game had been one of China’s most eagerly awaited this season, with Drogba-fever having swept the Chinese football world.
Former Japan national team coach Philippe Troussier, now managing
Chinese second division side Shenzhen Ruby, and Italian World-Cup
winning coach Marcello Lippi, manager of Guangzhou Evergrande, were in
Shenhua have struggled badly this season, winning just four of 17
games, but they played with an increased level of confidence when
Drogba, a European Champions League winner with Chelsea in May, stepped
onto the pitch.
In the 52nd minute the Ivory Coast striker headed just over the bar
from a cross from winger Feng Renliang, and was at the centre of every
Shenhua move as they tried to get back into the game.
Drogba’s biggest contribution came in the 68th minute with an
exquisite through ball which found Shanghainese playmaker Cao Yunding,
who rounded the keeper to equalise.
The match was also notable for being the first time Drogba and
Nicolas Anelka — who were Chelsea team-mates — have played together at
Shenhua. Anelka sealed a 175,000 pounds ($273,000) a week move from
Chelsea last December.
Drogba was reunited with the Frenchman after signing a deal that
Chinese and British media have said is worth 200,000 pounds a week,
making him the highest-paid player in China and in the top bracket
He was given a hero’s welcome when he arrived in China last week to start his two-and-a-half-year contract.
Hundreds of fans, many clad in “Drogba 11″ shirts, greeted the former
Chelsea star at Shanghai’s Pudong airport, some carrying flowers,
others brandishing his name in English on placards and many jostling to