Last-gasp Wu to SIPG's rescue as Evergrande stays top of CSL

A last-minute header by Wu Lei gives Shanghai SIPG a 3-2 victory over Chongqing Lifan during their 22nd round Chinese Super League match at Shanghai Stadium on Sunday.

Wu Lei (center) scores in the 88th minute to give Shanghai SIPG a 3-2 victory over Chongqing Lifan during their Chinese Super League match at Shanghai Stadium on August 13, 2017.

A last-minute header by Wu Lei gave Shanghai SIPG a crucial 3-2 victory over Chongqing Lifan at Shanghai Stadium on Sunday night as Andre Villas-Boas’ team remained five points behind leader Guangzhou Evergrande with eight more rounds to go in the Chinese Super League.

SIPG playmaker Oscar finished his eight-match ban and started the 22nd round CSL match but it was his Brazilian compatriot Hulk who put the hosts ahead — scoring from the penalty spot in the 34th following handball foul in the Chongqing box.

Chongqing was also given a penalty, 10 minutes into second half, with Brazil striker Hyuri making no mistake to level the scores.

The hosts took the lead again in the 72nd when Odil Ahmedov’s long shot from top of the box beat Chongqing goalie Deng Xiaofei and flew into the top right corner of the goal. Chongqing rallied once again as defender Liu Huan scored the second equalizer in the 87th.

SIPG’s top scorer Wu then came to his team’s rescue, scoring with a header on an assist by Wang Shenchao in the 88th. It was his 14th league goal this year.

“I played quite good a match, facing a strong opponent today,” Oscar said afterwards. “We have to win every match from now on to try to catch up Evergrande.”

Villas Boas described it as a stressful match.

“It could have been a draw. But we showed strong character and ambition in the closing minutes for the victory,” said the Portuguese.

In another Sunday match, Evergrande edged Henan Jianye 2-1 to maintain its lead atop the league table with 50 points. However, Luiz Felipe Scolari will be missing key player Paulinho for the rest of the season after Barcelona struck a 40-million euro (US$47.26 million) deal to sign the Brazil midfielder. Paulinho has scored 12 goals in 29 matches for the team in all competitions.

“I think it’s a good news for Chinese football,” AVB said when asked about Paulinho’s transfer. “It means the CSL is drawing the attention from the world and a club like Barcelona. Paulinho is a good player and it’s for Scolari to find out the solution after he leaves.”

SIPG takes on Evergrande in the first leg of their CFA Cup semifinal clash at Shanghai Stadium on Wednesday.

In a Saturday match, Shanghai Greenland Shenhua was whitewashed 0-5 by Shandong Luneng in Jinan, Shandong Province.

Struggling in the bottom half of the league table, Shenhua knows it has little chance of entering next year’s AFC Champions League, which is open to the top-three finishers.

Carlos Tevez, Fredy Guarin, Obafemi Martins and goalie Li Shuai did not go with the team to Jinan due to injuries. Regular starters Cao Yunding, Li Yunqiu and Zhang Lu were serving their bans, leaving limited choice of first-teamers for beleaguered head coach Gus Poyet.


Shenhua midfielder Cong Zhen was sent off in the 71st after receiving a second yellow card during its CSL match against Shandong Luneng in Jinan on August 12, 2017.

Shandong dominated the match, scoring three times in the first half. Shenhua gave in an own goal 10 minutes into the second half during a Shandong corner. An 89th-minute goal by the hosts finalized the score at 5-0.

It was quite obvious that Shenhua has shifted its focus to the CFA Cup from the league. It takes on Chinese League One side Shanghai Shenxin in the CFA Cup semifinal first leg on Tuesday.

Asked if the 0-5 result would hurt the team’s confidence, Poyet said he would have to wait until Tuesday to say for sure.

“A lot of people worry about the team’s confidence, but in my football theory, it is unlikely,” said the Uruguayan. “To the players, it’s more important to keep a good form rather than confidence.”

Shandong's victory means Felix Magath's team is now third on 38 points, one more than Fabio Cannavaro's Tianjin Quanjian. Shenhua is currently 11th in the 16-team CSL standing on 24 points.

Elsewhere on Sunday in the CSL, it was: Beijing Guo'an 4, Liaoning Whowin 0; Changchun Yatai 1, Yanbian Fude 1; and Guizhou Hengfeng Zhicheng 2, Guangzhou R-F 0.

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