SIPG puts Evergrande on the brink in Asia

Brazil striker Hulk scores one and makes another as Shanghai SIPG all but seals its spot in the AFC Champions League semifinals with a 4-0 first-leg rout of Guangzhou Evergrande.
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Wu Lei scored a brace in the second half as for SIPG romped past Guangzhou Evergrande 4-0 in their AFC Champions League quarterfinal, first leg at Shanghai Stadium on August 22, 2017.

Shanghai SIPG seized control of its AFC Champions League quarterfinal clash against its Chinese Super League rival Guangzhou Evergrande with a thumping 4-0 victory at Shanghai Stadium on Tuesday night. It was SIPG’s second victory within a week against its arch rival in both domestic and Asian battles this year.

“I’m very delighted with the result,” gushed SIPG manager Andre Villas-Boas. “Excellent performance and great attitude by the players. Of course there is the second leg to play and we will have two players suspended (due to yellow card collection). Though I think the referee should have sent two Evergrande players off today.”

It was the third of the five meetings between the two sides in a two-month period, which could prove crucial to the outcome of their respective 2017 campaigns.

Villas-Boas put former Evergrande player Elkeson on the bench and started with Hulk, Oscar and Odil Akhmedov.

The hosts found their pace quickly, with Lu Wenjun, Oscar and Hulk taking turns to threaten Evergrande’s goal in the first half an hour. The opening goal came in the 36th minute. SIPG was given a penalty after China striker Wu Lei was fouled by Evergrande’s Zhang Linpeng in the box. Hulk found the back of the net from the spot. It was the Brazilian’s seventh goal in this year’s Asian league.

Captain Wang Shenchao doubled the advantage for the hosts before the half-time interval, scoring with a header on Hulk’s assist from a corner.

Villas-Boas replaced Lu with Elkeson in the second half while his Guangzhou counterpart Luiz Felipe Scolari brought in Muriqui for Alan Douglas de Carvalho.

Evergrande’s hopes of a comeback in the second half were dashed, however, when Wu fired a quick-fire double in the 61st and the 64th to secure the victory. The score could have been 5-0 had Elkeson not blown a close-range one-on-one chance five minutes before the final whistle.

Remarkable home record

The result allowed SIPG to continue with its remarkable home record in the ACL — 11 wins and one draw. The two sides will head to Guangzhou for the second leg on September 12.

“We have been chasing Evergrande for a while, and today’s result was well-deserved. But we have to be careful since it’s a two-legged clash and Evergrande boasts a winning record in Guangzhou,” cautioned Villas-Boas.

Villas-Boas had said earlier that his team was giving up on the CSL title given Evergrande's eight-point lead over SIPG with seven more rounds to go. Apart from the Asian battle, SIPG also has the upper hand on its rival in the CFA Cup semifinal following a 2-1 first-leg victory in Shanghai last week.

“SIPG deserves the win,” Evergrande manager Scolari conceded after Tuesday's match. “We know this opponent very well. SIPG seized their opportunities in counter attacks while our players made some mistakes and gave their players, like Hulk and Wu Lei, too much space.”

“We paid for the absence of players like Paulinho, Huang Bowen and Mei Fang,” the Brazilian World Cup-winning coach added, saying that a malfunction of the air conditioner in the visiting team’s rest room ahead of the match "affected the team’s performance a bit”.

The winner of the quarterfinal will face Japanese opposition. Urawa Red Diamonds and Kawasaki Frontale play their first leg on Wednesday.

In the West Asian half of the draw, al-Ain of the United Arab Emirates drew with al -Hilal of Saudi Arabia 0-0. The other quarterfinal pits Persepolis of Iran against al-Ahli of Saudi Arabia.

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