SIPG falls back in title chase after a goalless draw with Tianjin

Shanghai SIPG's goalless home draw with Fabio Cannavaro’s Tianjin Quanjian allows Guangzhou Evergrande to increase its Chinese Super League table lead to 4 points.

Shanghai SIPG was held to a goalless draw by Fabio Cannavaro’s Tianjin Quanjian in their Chinese Super League match at Shanghai Stadium on Sunday, slowing down its pace in the chase of table topper Guangzhou Evergrande.

Evergrande beat another Tianjin team Teda 3-0 in a Saturday match to extend its lead atop the CSL standings to four points. It now has 44 points, followed by SIPG (41) and Quanjian (36).

It was the second time within a week for Andre Villas-Boas’ SIPG to take on Quanjian. SIPG claimed a 4-0 victory in their CFA Cup quarterfinal, second-leg match on the same pitch last Thursday, and advanced to the semifinals with an aggregate score of 4-3.

Coming into Sunday’s clash, Cannavaro’s team made it tougher for the hosts by strengthening its defense, though SIPG started with most of its major players, including Hulk, Elkeson, Wu Lei and Odil Ahmedov.

After a goalless first half, Villas-Boas replaced Wu with Lu Wenjun 15 minutes into the second half, which hardly improved the team’s attack. The two sides only recorded a total of three shots on target throughout the match.

“Our opponents did some homework against our 3-5-2 formation (after Wednesday’s cup match),” said SIPG striker Li Shenglong. “Both sides created some chances, but did not seize them.”

SIPG falls back in title chase after a goalless draw with Tianjin

Shanghai SIPG's Brazilian striker Hulk fights for the ball with Tianjin Quanjian's Axel Witsel during the Chinese Super League match at Shanghai Stadium on August 6, 2017.

Cannavaro praised his team’s performance at the post-match press conference.

“Today’s Tianjin Quanjian is the team I have tried to build in the past one year. Our players managed to suppress SIPG’s key players both on the wings and in the center as I had demanded,” said the Italian.

In another Saturday match, a last-minute goal by South Korean defender Kim Kee-hee helped Shanghai Greenland Shenhua to steal a point from a 1-1 draw with Changchun Yatai at Hongkou Football Stadium.

Shenhua manager Gus Poyet benched some regular starters, including captain Giovanni Moreno, Obafemi Martins, and Cao Yunding, as the team recovers from a mid-week CFA Cup match.

The hosts conceded an early goal when Changchun’s Tan Long dribbled the ball past Shenhua goalie Li Shuai on a one-on-one chance and found the back of the net 12 minutes into kick-off.

Shenhua then created a couple of chances, including a headed attempt by Carlos Tevez, which hit the post in the 19th. The Argentina striker won another one-on-one chance in the box two minutes later, but his shot was blocked by Changchun goalie Wu Yake.

Poyet used up his three substitutions in the opening five minutes of the second half, sending Moreno, Cao and Sun Shilin onto the pitch. But the home crowd had to wait until injury time for the equalizer when Kim received a corner pass from Wang Lin, and headed the ball into the net.

SIPG falls back in title chase after a goalless draw with Tianjin

Shanghai Greenland Shenhua striker Carlos Tevez takes a shot at goal during their CSL match against Changchun Yatai at Hongkou Football Stadium in Shanghai on August 5, 2017.

Poyet said at the post-match press conference that he had to make rotations due to the packed match schedule, while the humid weather added to the difficulty of the match.

“We collected a lot of information from the rotations we made today, and will know better how to handle the upcoming matches,” said the Uruguayan. “Our three major players, including Moreno, were not in their best form after playing in Wednesday’s CFA Cup match, so it’s hard to say what would have happened had I started with them."

“We actually created a lot of chances today, and goalies of both sides played a good match,” he added. “As for Tevez, he has been lacking in luck.”

Shenhua continues to sit ninth in the CSL table on 24 points. It will take on Guizhou Hengfeng, a team coached by former Shenhua manager Gregorio Manzano, at Hongkou Football Stadium on Wednesday.

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