By any standard, 9-1 is a not scoreline generally associated with a professional football match. However, such an incredible outcome was seen not only in a professional Chinese league game, but between two of the country's best sides, Beijing Guoan and Shanghai Shenhua, when the capital-based hosts mercilessly put their visitors to the sword for a record win on 20 July 1997.
Prior to the match, fierce rivalry between the pair had been steadily simmering, but this lop-sided scoreline is a reference point for an increased intensity between the two clubs. For the Shanghailanders, the defeat has proved the biggest dint in their pride, while Beijing undoubtedly draw inspiration from the memorable victory whenever the two sides meet.
China's two largest mainland metropolises, Shanghai and Beijing have long been locking horns in a variety of sporting and, indeed, cultural competition. The rivalry between the pair expanded to football in a significant way in 1994 with the launch of the professional C-league.
Both sides failed to make an impression in the inaugural season, which saw Shenhua finishing fourth while Beijing languished in the eighth place. Things changed rapidly however the following season and the two sides, now boasting some of the country's best players, took the league by storm. However, it was Shenhua who proved victorious, winning the league title ahead of the runners-up Guoan. The capital team claimed their first title a year on dethroning Shandong Luneng to win the FA Cup, which they would then retain a year later.
With both clubs consistently among the league's elite, clashes between the two clubs began to dominate the headlines across the country. Shenhua drew the first blood with a thrilling 4-3 home win in their initial meeting but Guoan took sweet revenge in the return leg, inflicting a 5-1 defeat on the visitors. Since those opening encounters, the desire for derby glory has increased with each passing season.
Facts and figures
The undiminished rivalry has seen the two sides pitted against each other in 31 league matches to date, with Shenhua slightly leading with 12 wins to Beijing's nine victories. Despite the edge, they have rarely won a game with ease, with all their victories within a two-goal margin. On the opposite side of the ledger, the 9-1 thrashing was by no means the only time Beijing waltzed past their rivals, as they ran out 3-0 winners in 2004 before pulling off a 4-0 win a year later.
Tales of derbies past
Guoan's inexplicable 9-1 victory remains an unparalleled scoreline for any Chinese Super League match. "It may remain to be seen whether such a sensational triumph could be replicated in the future, but I am really proud that the record was achieved by us," former Guoan coach Jin Zhiyang, who masterminded the win, told FIFA.com in a recent interview.
As the 66-year-old recalled, the result can largely be attributed to a sublime display by their imported attacking trio, who contributed eight of their nine goals. The towering Spanish forward Andres Olivas Rubio and his Paraguayan striking partner Casiano Wilberto Delvalle Ruiz each completed a hat-trick while midfielder Jorge Luis Campos claimed a brace.
"After Andres opened the scoring and Cao Xiandong doubled our lead, Shenhua quickly pulled one back but they made a tactical error afterwards by pressing too hard and left more holes at the back, allowing us to make the best of our speed to counterattack."
The rivalry today
Their latest clash sees the two familiar rivals battle in their 32nd league meeting, with Guoan hosting the clash this Saturday. The home team, sitting atop the 16-team standings under Korea Republic mentor Lee Jang-Soo, are expected to strengthen their lead with their tenth win over Shanghai.
In the eyes of the veteran tactician Jin, Beijing must concentrate on performance rather than result if they are to continue their impressive run towards a maiden league title. "If the team think too much of the outcome, the pressure is on us. Besides, despite our proud home record, we can never underestimate our rivals and can't expect an easy game in front of us."
His opinions were echoed by Fan Zhiyi, who was Shenhua skipper in their forgotten 9-1 defeat. The former AFC Player of the Year told FIFA.com, "That accidental result reflected our lack of experience during those days but such a one-sided game will hardly happen again this time around. It will be a close game and the result depends on which team is able to keep their cool."