Melbourne ends SIPG's unbeaten group run in ACL

Shanghai SIPG's undefeated run in this year's AFC Champions League came to an end in a 1-2 loss to Melbourne Victory in Australia in their last group match yesterday.

SHANGHAI SIPG’s undefeated run in this year’s AFC Champions League came to an end in a 1-2 loss to Melbourne Victory in Australia in their last group match yesterday.

The Chinese Super League leader had already secured a top finish in Group F before the clash, while its opponent was playing for pride, having been eliminated from the Asian tournament.

SIPG manager Vitor Pereira therefore sent on a comparatively younger squad onto the pitch, with Elkeson the only foreign player. Brazil striker Hulk was left on the bench.

The first goal came in the 40th minute when Melbourne striker Pierce Waring beat SIPG defender Zhang Wei to score on an assist by Kenny Athiu.

Striker Lin Chuangyi equalized for the visitors at the end of the first half by finishing off a smooth move from Elkeson and Lu Wenjun.

Hulk provided an extra spark to SIPG’s attack after coming on in the second half. However, it was Melbourne which claimed the winner as Jai Ingham headed home a cross by Terry Antonis in the 68th.

The victory gave Melbourne a third-place finish in Group F on 8 points behind SIPG (11) and South Korea’s Ulsan Hyundai (9).

In Shanghai, SIPG’s national team players Wu Lei and Cai Huikang showed up at the club’s monthly fans’ gathering. The two did not follow the team to Australia but watched the match together with some 300 local supporters. They also interacted with fans by simulating a pre-match press conference and took questions.

Wu also brought along with him the ACL MVP trophy, allowing fans to click pictures.

SIPG will take on J League side Kashima Antlers in the round of 16 next month.

SIPG’s CSL rival Tianjin Quanjian, which had already qualified for the last 16, ended its group campaign with a 3-2 home victory over Japan’s Kashiwa Reysol.

Wu Lei (right) and Cai Huikang took questions from the floor before watching SIPG’s ACL match against Melbourne Victory in Shanghai with fans on Wednesday.

Also in the same Group E, Jeonbuk Motors of South Korea eased past Hong Kong, China’s Kitchee 3-0 yesterday.

On Tuesday, Sydney FC’s ACL campaign came to a frustrating end following a goalless draw against Shanghai Greenland Shenhua in Australia.

Shenhua was already eliminated from the tournament, leading to head coach Wu Jingui rotating his squad. Captain Giovanni Moreno was the only foreigner to start the match. The Colombian was substituted after the first half.

But the draw was not enough to lift Shenhua — on 5 points — off the bottom of Group H as Sydney ended with 6 points.

Suwon Samsung Bluewings topped the group on 10 points, 1 more than Kashima.

“We did not have a smooth run in the AFC this year due to injuries,” coach Wu said after the match. “I thank my players for their hard work. Our effort today also followed the fair play principle, which is a kind of respect towards our opponent.”

Wu’s team will now shift its focus to the domestic league and the Chinese FA Cup.

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