Villas-Boas under pressure after SIPG ACL loss

SIPG spent big this year, hiring Brazil midfielder Oscar for an Asian-record 60 million euros, but it looks unlikely to overhaul holder Guangzhou Evergrande at the top of the CSL.

Urawa Red Diamonds' Yosuke Kashiwagi (left) fights for the ball with Shanghai SIPG's Oscar during their AFC Champions League semifinal second leg in Saitama on October 18, 2017. Urawa won 1-0 to advance 2-1 on aggregate to the two-leg final against Saudi club al-Hilal.

Chinese media piled pressure on Shanghai SIPG coach Andre Villas-Boas on Thursday after the club's stinging defeat to Urawa Red Diamonds in the AFC Champions League semifinals.

The Portuguese coach promised silverware in his debut season but after Urawa's 2-1 aggregate win, his best remaining hope seems to be next month's CFA Cup final against city rival Shanghai Greenland Shenhua.

SIPG spent big this year, hiring Brazilian midfielder Oscar for an Asian-record 60 million euros (US$71.12 million), but it looks unlikely to overhaul holder Guangzhou Evergrande at the top of the Chinese Super League.

Oriental Sports Daily quoted well-known CCTV news anchor Bai Yansong as saying: "It is time for Villas-Boas to leave. He has been suspended again and again... If he leaves, it could be a relief for him."

And the Shanghai Observer said: "It seems Villas-Boas is planning for SIPG's next season but if the Portuguese coach wants to realize his aspirations, he has to win the CFA Cup.

"After all, winning a championship was a hard target when he signed his contract with the club."

Urawa's 1-0 second-leg win in Saitama late on Wednesday deepened the problems of the former Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea boss, who has been in the crosshairs of both the Chinese Football Association and the Asian Football Confederation.

The AFC fined him US$14,000 for "offensive" comments following SIPG's victory over Evergrande in the ACL quarterfinals, and he received an eight-match touchline ban from the CFA after complaining about a referee.

He was also criticized on Thursday by some fans posting on social media, who said he relies too much on foreign players and that his brushes with authority were affecting the team.

Villas-Boas said he was bitterly disappointed to miss out on becoming the second Chinese team to win the ACL, following Evergrande in 2013 and 2015.

"We are making the right steps going forward, but we would have preferred to play in the final — it was our dream to do so — and so we are very disappointed," he said, according to the AFC website.

"My players did everything, so I congratulate them for their effort and we still have the Chinese FA Cup final to look forward to. Our dreams are still alive for a trophy this season, but unfortunately we have missed out on the big one this year."

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