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SIPG gets first CSL road win, advances in ACL ahead of Shanghai derby

Shanghai SIPG

A nice win at Tianjin, Hulk agonistes and a fortuitous loss to Western Sydney Wanderers mark a tumultuous week for SIPG

All-Chinese Goal Sparks Victory in Tianjin

Did SIPG just pull off the All Chinese Goal of the Year? Any end-of-year list is going to have to include the masterpiece on Sunday night in Tianjin against Teda.

It started with Shi Ke approaching midfield on the left side and spotting Fu Huan about 20 yards from the goal line on the right sideline. Shi’s long, long pass was a guided missile to Fu, who headed the ball to Lue Wenjun at the edge of the area.

Lue neatly sidestepped a Teda defender, dribbled briefly towards the center, and then hit Fu, streaking towards the center of the area, with a perfect pass. Fu cooly potted the only goal of the match in SIPG’s 1-0 victory at Tianjin Olympic Center Stadium. Despite the aplomb with which he scored, the thirty-fourth minute strike was only Fu’s second goal in five SIPG seasons.

SIPG needed it; the Red Eagles got little from Hulk, which begs some explanation.

Will Accusation Against Hulk Have Long-term Consequences?

After Shanghai’s match last week, the Guizhou management accused Hulk of criminal assault (against a translator in a stadium tunnel) and racist remarks. The police reviewed surveillance tapes of the incident, according to the Shanghai Daily, and passed on taking any action.

The CFA, which earlier had demonstrated a willingness to go medieval, punishment wise, on a CSL player (Shanghai Shenhua’s Qin Sheng, who got a six-month ban for foot stomping), took the “move along folks, nothing to see here” approach to a transgression from a club, declining to punish Guizhou for some combination of filing a false police report, slander, damaging the reputation of the league and creating an atmosphere in which foreign players will think twice about coming to China.

So, the incident apparently died.

But maybe not. Tianjin’s strategy on Sunday night couldn’t have been clearer: they absolutely hammered Hulk for 90 minutes, and referee Wang Jin was utterly unwilling to call fouls against Tianjin for it. Cards, of course, were out of the question.

This became especially egregious towards the end of the match as frustrated Tianjin players took turns kicking Hulk and knocking him to his feet; Fu Huan’s outraged defense of Hulk in the 86th minute nearly ignited a brawl and finally got referee Wang Jin’s attention. Wang yellow-carded Zhao Honglue (along with Fu), Li Yuanyi and Pan Ximing of Tianjin in the span of four minutes.

If this strategy — hack-a-Hulk? — is the way it’s going to be for the rest of the year, Hulk, SIPG, but ultimately, the league, are in for some trouble.

Oh, and by the way: a Hulk goal was disallowed by as badly blown an offside call as you’ll ever see; he was onside by two yards when a neat backheel pass headed his way. (Wang Shenchao would have been well offside if the pass had been in his direction, but it was nowhere near.)

The man of the match for SIPG was, without question, Yan Junling. The keeper compensated for the usual SIPG backline woes — Wang Shenchao was particularly ineffective — with six saves, most of them difficult, and most of them against Nigerian international Brown Ideye Aide, who wandered wild and free through the Shanghai defense most of the night.

Home for the Holidays and a Lot More

The match leaves SIPG second on the table with 20 points, two behind Evergrande and with the best goal differential in the league. The Red Eagles now begin an extended period of home cooking in the CSL, ACL and FA Cup. From now until July 9, every SIPG match except one is in Shanghai, Nanjing or Suzhou.

(That includes the big one, the sunshine derby next weekend between SIPG and Shenhua at crippled Hongkou Stadium.)

A big part of the soft traveling schedule is a result of SIPG’s second-place finish in the group stage of the ACL, which netted the Red Eagles a Round of 16 match-up against Jiangsu Suning.

SIPG ended up in second because of an 89th minute goal by Western Sydney Wanderers on Wednesday in Australia, giving the Wanderers a 3-2 victory over SIPG. The Red Eagles would have won the group with a draw — group co-leader Urawa lost 1-0 in Korea to FC Seoul — and been forced to play K-League leader Jeju United.

That the Western Sydney match was competitive is down to André Villas-Boas’s decision to go with six front-line players: Lue Wenjun, Elkeson, Wu Lei, Akhmedov, He Guan and Fu Huan. Fatefully, however, AVB also chose to give Sun Le his first start of the year in goal, and Sun is clearly not ready for prime time. He gave up two soft goals and was the closest thing to a direct cause of the SIPG loss.

American expat rooting for Shanghai SIPG, because they're the Oakland A's to Shenhua's San Francisco Giants.

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