Shang­hai strug­gles with­out stars

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

IN­JURED Brazil­ian for­ward Hulk sat out again as his Shang­hai SIPG side drew 0-0 at home to Jeon­buk Hyundai Mo­tors in the Asian Cham­pi­ons League quar­ter-fi­nal first leg on Au­gust 23. For­mer cham­pi­ons Al Ain were also held to a goal­less stale­mate by Uzbek­istan’s Loko­mo­tiv in the sap­ping heat of the UAE in the West Asian leg of the tour­na­ment.

The pow­er­fully built Hulk played just 21 min­utes of foot­ball be­fore be­ing in­jured on his de­but on July 11 af­ter a high-pro­file 55 mil­lion euro (US$61 mil­lion) trans­fer from Zenit St Peters­burg.

The Shang­hai side’s coach, for­mer Eng­land man­ager Sven-Go­ran Eriks­son, had hoped at the week­end that Hulk might be fit to make his come­back in the Cham­pi­ons League clash.

But Hulk’s name was ab­sent from the teamsheet along with that of an­other key player, Ar­gen­tine play­maker Dario Conca, who could be out for the sea­son, the club said, af­ter sus­tain­ing a knee in­jury in a do­mes­tic match last week.

The first de­cent chance did not fall un­til the 25th minute when a long ball was ex­pertly con­trolled by Chi­nese in­ter­na­tional for­ward Wu Lei whose square pass into the box fell just short of his strike part­ner Elke­son.

Just two min­utes later the Brazil­ian front man, who won the Asian Cham­pi­ons League last sea­son with Guangzhou Ever­grande, had the 33,000-strong crowd scream­ing for a penalty when he fell at the edge of Jeon­buk’s box.

How­ever Aus­tralian ref­eree Ben­jamin Wil­liams gave a free-kick out­side the 18-yard area which Elke­son blasted straight against the wall.

In the 37th minute, Jeon­buk’s Brazil­ian for­ward Leonardo hit the post with a curl­ing ef­fort from out­side the box.

A whip­ping free-kick from Lu Wen­jun al­most put SIPG ahead but Jeon­buk goal­keeper Kwoun Sun-Tae pushed the ef­fort wide in the 54th minute.

SIPG en­joyed a spell of heavy pres­sure to­ward the end as an un­usu­ally-an­i­mated Eriks­son urged his charges on from the touch­line.

His ex­hor­ta­tions al­most paid off when Wu Lei went close with a back­ward header from in­side the box two min­utes from time. Hulk to re­turn “I think it was an ac­cept­able out­come,” Eriks­son told re­porters af­ter the match. “They had some chances, we had some chances, so it was even.

“A clean sheet at home is very im­por­tant. The tie is still open and there are still pos­si­bil­i­ties for us to reach the semi-fi­nal.”

The sec­ond leg is on Septem­ber 13 in Jeonju, South Korea and Eriks­son said Hulk should be back for it.

“If ev­ery­thing goes as we plan, as the doc­tors plan, then Hulk will be ready for our next Chi­nese Su­per League game against Bei­jing,” said Eriks­son.

“That would mean he would be ready for the AFC Cham­pi­ons League game in Korea – fin­gers crossed.”

In Al Ain, the teams strug­gled for mo­men­tum in harsh con­di­tions with the re­sult that they will have all to play for when they clash in the sec­ond leg on Septem­ber 13 in Tashkent.

The best chance of the match for Al Ain came 10 min­utes from time but Danilo Asprilla’s ef­fort from close was re­pelled by Ig­natiy Nes­terov.

With the desert heat break­ing the 40 de­gree Cel­sius mark, it was an up­hill bat­tle for play­ers although Al Ain clearly were bet­ter suited to the con­di­tions, go­ing close on sev­eral oc­ca­sions early in the match, in­clud­ing one from their tal­is­man Omar Ab­dul­rah­man who saw his curl­ing free-kick palmed away by Uzbek in­ter­na­tional goal­keeper Nes­terov.

Loko­mo­tiv, too, had their chances, Sar­dor Mirza­yev go­ing inches wide in the 25th minute and San­jar Shaakhme­dov’s long-ranger be­ing pushed over the bar by Khalid Eissa mo­ments later.

The pace of the match dropped de­cid­edly in the sec­ond half as the heat took its toll, but Al Ain will go into the sec­ond leg with much con­fi­dence hav­ing had the bet­ter of the ex­changes. –

Photo: AFP

Kim Ju Young (left) of China’s Shang­hai SIPG fights for the ball with Lee Dong Gook of South Korea’s Jeon­buk Hyundai Mo­tors dur­ing their AFC Cham­pi­ons League quar­ter-fi­nal foot­ball match in Shang­hai on Au­gust 23.

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