SIPG suffers ACL loss in Kashima

Shanghai SIPG slumped to a 1-3 defeat at Kashima Antlers in the first leg of their AFC Champions League last 16 clash yesterday.
SIPG suffers ACL loss in Kashima

Kashima Antlers forward Yuma Suzuki shoots to score against Shanghai SIPG during their AFC Champions League last-16, first-leg match in Kashima, Japan, yesterday. Kashima won 3-1.

Shanghai SIPG slumped to a 1-3 defeat at Kashima Antlers in the first leg of their AFC Champions League last 16 clash yesterday.

Vitor Pereira’s SIPG was missing Brazil striker and captain Hulk who picked up an injury in the team’s Chinese Super League loss to Beijing Guo’an last week. Oscar, wearing a bandage on his head, led the attack alongside Wu Lei and Elkeson at Kashima Soccer Stadium.

The hosts began with a flurry of attacks, hitting the post just 90 seconds into the match. SIPG also had its chance when Oscar’s close-range attempt in the 9th minute was parried by Kashima goalkeeper Kwoun Suntae.

With SIPG struggling to play its natural attacking game, it allowed Yuma Suzuki to score for Kashima from a corner minutes before the half-time break.

Nishi Daigo doubled the advantage during a melee in the SIPG box 4 minutes into the second half. The visitors were left to regret a Wu attempt that hit the post in the 69th.

To make matters worse, Yu Hai scored an own goal in the 74th while defending Suzuki in front of the goal, giving Kashima a 3-0 lead. Two minutes later, Elkeson found the net, allowing SIPG to pocket a crucial away goal despite the defeat.

The two teams will meet again at Shanghai Stadium in a week’s time for the second leg as they battle for a slot in the quarterfinals of the elite Asian tournament. And Kashima — Japan’s most successful team with 8 J-League titles to its name — will fancy its chances after only its second-ever win in 8 matches in the competition’s knockout stage.

But before the crucial second leg, SIPG has to take on Guizhou Hengfeng in a CSL match in Guiyang on Saturday.

The team has lost its previous two CSL matches despite a strong start to the season. It currently shares first place in the standing with Shandong Luneng on 19 points after 9 rounds, followed by Guo’an (18) and defending champion Guangzhou Evergrande (17).

SIPG players appear knackered, having played 10 matches in five weeks on three fronts — the ACL, CSL and the CFA Cup. Pereira said earlier that his team lacks depth, making it difficult for him to rotate but he would seek to strike a balance.

SIPG’s city rival Greenland Shenhua, meanwhile, plans to look for a new foreign player during the summer transfer window which opens on June 18. The newcomer will fill the vacancy left by Nigeria striker Obafemi Martins, who underwent knee surgery last month.

“I have discussed this with club officials,” head coach Wu Jingui told local media yesterday. “Considering the team’s situation as well as the Chinese Football Association’s policy against big spending, we will look for a suitable player instead of making too expensive a choice.”

Shenhua is seventh in the standing on 14 points. It has already been eliminated from this year’s ACL and CFA Cup.

Elsewhere, Fabio Cannavaro’s Evergrande docked the pay of 5 backroom staff yesterday for “damaging the club brand” after 29-year-old star defender Zhang Linpeng was forced to wear another player’s shirt with the name and number covered by yellow tape.

The incident happened during the first half of Tuesday’s ACL last 16 first leg at CSL rival Tianjin Quanjian, after match officials told Zhang, Evergrande’s No. 5, to change his shirt because it had blood on it.

Evergrande staff were unable to immediately rustle up a replacement ‘5’ jersey, so they gave the center back substitute Zhang Wenzhao’s ‘15’ shirt with yellow tape over the ‘1’.

They also covered the name at the top of the shirt with yellow tape. Evergrande was playing in its yellow away strip.

Zhang changed into the correct shirt a short time later.

But members of Evergrande’s backroom staff paid the price when the CSL champion issued a statement hitting out at their “lack of sense of responsibility” over the makeshift solution.

General manager Gao Han was among the club officials who will have his pay cut.

“The team’s kit management has made major mistakes and has seriously damaged the club’s brand,” said the club, which nullified the threat of Tianjin’s forward pairing of Anthony Modeste and Alexandre Pato to earn a useful 0-0 away draw.

The club did not specify how much of a financial hit was suffered by those punished.

World Cup-winner Cannavaro’s side hosts Tianjin next week and will be a slight favorite to reach the last 8 of the ACL, which it won in 2013 and 2015.

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