Last-gasp He gives SIPG edge over Evergrande in CFA Cup semifinal

A last-minute goal by defender He Guan gave Shanghai SIPG a 2-1 victory over Guangzhou Evergrande in the first leg of their CFA Cup semifinals at Shanghai Stadium.

He Guan (second left) heads what turned out to be Shanghai SIPG's winner in the last-minute against Guangzhou Evergrande during their CFA Cup semifinal, first leg at Shanghai Stadium on August 16, 2017.

A last-minute goal by defender He Guan gave Shanghai SIPG a 2-1 victory over Guangzhou Evergrande in the first leg of their CFA Cup semifinal at Shanghai Stadium last night.

It was also SIPG’s first victory over its title rival in Shanghai.

Evergrande manager Luiz Felipe Scolari said it was an acceptable result, as SIPG showed more desire for victory by sending on a much stronger squad.

SIPG manager Andre Villas-Boas was serving the second game of his two-match ban in the CFA Cup.

Hulk, Oscar and Odil Ahmedov started for SIPG while former Evergrande player Elkeson was rested.

Losing Brazil international Paulinho, who joined Barcelona on Tuesday, Scolari made quite a few changes to his line-up, resting key players like Zheng Zhi and Zhang Linpeng, and giving starts to Brazil duo Alan Carvalho and Muriqui as well as South Korea defender Kim Young-gwon.

Evergrande had never lost to SIPG at Shanghai Stadium before. The visitors did the early running as usual,  with captain Liu Jian scoring with a header from a corner in the 18th minute.

SIPG made an early substitution, replacing Under-23 player Zheng Zhiyun with Lu Wenjun in the 22nd. Lu could have equalized for the hosts when his header hit Evergrande’s post at the end of the first half.

Having their attack strengthened after the break, SIPG pulled one back nine minutes into the second half. Hulk’s shot was blocked by Guangzhou goalie Liu Dianzuo. The ball fell to Ahmedov in the box, and he got the equalizer.

Ahmedov and Hulk then hit the post and bar in turn as SIPG went all out for the winner. Just when the 25,000 home fans thought they had to settle for a draw, He came to SIPG’s rescue, heading in a free kick from Hulk.

“It’s was an exciting match and a well-deserved result for SIPG who created more chances,” said Scolari. “Our team played well, too, but some of them are tired... We have to make sure of the team’s performance in the league.”

Evergrande is five points ahead of SIPG in the Chinese Super League with eight more rounds to go.

The second leg will be held in about a month, and the winner will take on another Shanghai team — either Shanghai Greenland Shenhua or Chinese League One side Shanghai Shenxin in the final.


Shanghai Greenland Shenhua players greet home fans after their CFA Cup semifinal against Shanghai Shenxin on August 15, 2017.

On Tuesday, Greenland Shenhua edged Shenxin 1-0 at Hongkou Football Stadium to seize the advantage in their two-leg clash, thanks to a second-half goal from South Korea defender Kim Kee-hee.

Shenhua’s Argentine striker Carlos Tevez left Shanghai for home one day before the match. According to the club, Tevez had been suffering muscle discomfort since their CSL match against Changchun on August 5. Doctors suggested he go back to Argentina for treatment of his calf injury. He is expected to return to Shanghai at the end of the month.

The 33-year-old has been struggling for fitness since suffering the injury in April. He has just scored two goals in 12 appearances for the club.

Fredy Guarin is also out injured, and in the United States for treatment. Therefore, manager Gus Poyet started with Giovanni Moreno, Obafemi Martins and Kim. Midfielder Qin Sheng, who served a six-month ban for stamping on the foot of Tianjin Quanjian’s Belgium international Axel Witsel since March, was also back in the line-up.

Facing a second-tier team, Shenhua played aggressively but could not seize its chances, including Martins’ several one-on-one opportunities. The home crowd had to wait until the 53rd minute when Mao Jianqing’s pass found an unmarked Kim in the box, the Korean sending the ball into the net.

“We got the result we wanted, but did not manage to kill the suspense in the first leg itself," Poyet said after the match. “But this is football, and we will keep our best form for the second leg.”

He praised Qin's performance though the player was substituted in the 65th due to a knee injury.

“Qin’s return is very important, making us a capable team again. If Qin could have played through the season, our position in the league would have been different,” said Poyet.

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