Hulk brace in vain as SIPG ousted

Shanghai SIPG crashed out of this year's AFC Champions League despite a 2-1 victory over Kashima Antlers in their last-16, second-leg match last night.
Hulk brace in vain as SIPG ousted

Shanghai SIPG striker Li Shenglong looks dejected following the AFC Champions League last 16 second leg against Kashima Antlers at Shanghai Stadium last night. SIPG won 2-1 — with burly Brazil striker Hulk scoring a brace, including a penalty — but went out 3-4 on aggregate. 

Shanghai SIPG crashed out of this year’s AFC Champions League despite a 2-1 victory over Kashima Antlers in their last-16, second-leg match last night.

Brazil striker Hulk returned to the lineup and scored a brace but it was not good enough to stop Kashima from reaching the quarterfinals of the Asian league for the second time — 10 years after its first success — with an aggregate score of 4-3.

“We tried to do everything to get a good result,” said SIPG manager Vitor Pereira. “I am not happy with the result. We had good organization in the first half, but lost pace a bit after the opponents scored. Now we will focus on the (domestic) league and the (CFA) cup.”

“We didn’t have time to work on strategy or train properly for one month due to matches and traveling. With the break ahead, we will have time for adjustments,” added the Portuguese.

The J League side carried with it a 3-1 advantage to Shanghai Stadium last night. The team had not played in the domestic league since the first leg so as to concentrate on the Asian campaign.

Pereira needed a strong performance from his players to ease the increasing scrutiny of him after his team failed to win its last four Chinese Super League matches. Hulk made a return from injury, partnering compatriot Oscar and Odil Ahmedov up front.

Chinese national team head coach Marcello Lippi was in the stands as SIPG has six players selected into the Italian’s latest national squad.

With a two-goal deficit to make up, the hosts began aggressively. Wu Lei had a one-on-one chance two minutes into kickoff but saw his shot saved by goalkeeper Kwoun Sun-tae.

The 19,700 spectators did not have to wait long for the arrival of the first goal as Oscar’s freekick into the box bounced on Kashima defender Gen Shoji before falling into the path of Hulk, who seized the opportunity to score the opener.

The visitors came close to scoring in the 30th and 36th minutes with close-range attempts that went slightly off target. The equalizer came in the 42nd when Kashima stirred SIPG’s defense in the box. Shoma Doi got the final touch, sending the ball past SIPG goalie Yan Junling with his heel.

Pereira replaced midfielder Cai Huikang and defender Wang Shenchao with striker Li Shenglong and defender Yu Hai after the break.

The early part of the second half became a one-man showcase for Kashima goalie Kwoun, whose impressive saves kept the score unchanged until the 79th when SIPG was awarded a penalty following a handball foul in the box. Burly Brazilian Hulk duly completed his brace from the spot.

There were no more goals in the last 10 minutes despite SIPG’s consistent efforts. Defender He Guan sparked a mini brawl in the 84th when he kicked an extra ball towards the Kashima bench, receiving a yellow card for his petulance.

“If we had scored a second goal, the match would have turned out to be easier,” said Kashima head coach Go Oiwa. “But I’m delighted with the result since we are through to the next round. We did our homework against our opponents. The match was a big challenge, but our players showed strong mental strength.”

In the other tie on the night, Suwon Samsung Bluewings beat fellow South Koreans Ulsan Hyundai 3-0 at home to progress 3-1 on aggregate.

On Tuesday, Tianjin Quanjian and Korea’s Jeonbuk Motors advanced to the last eight.

The quarterfinals take place in August and September.

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