Shanghai heads to Sydney on Tuesday for it’s third match in three different competitions in eight days. The first two couldn’t have gone much better.
SIPG easily handles Shijiazhuang in Cup
First up was SIPG’s 2017 FA Cup debut, a Third Round FA Cup trip to Hebei last Wednesday for a match against Shijiazhuang Ever Bright, now back down in League One after a cup of coffee in the CSL.
Andre Villa-Boas mixed and matched his line-up, giving rare starts to Wei Shihao, Lu Wenjun, Zhang Yi, Lin Chuangyi and — making his SIPG debut —Portuguese international Ricardo Carvalho, but he also had six of the usual suspects: Elkeson, Ahmedov, Zhang Wei, Wang Shenchao, Yan Junling and Cai Huikang. Hulk and Oscar sat.
The result was an easy 2-0 SIPG victory. Both SIPG goals were off high quality free kicks by Lu Wenjun into Elkeson, who provided deadly finishes.
Carvalho, last seen on the Portuguese roster that won the European championship and before that on a Monaco side that finished third in Ligue 1, didn’t seem to significantly tighten the SIPG backline.
SIPG catches a huge break for the FA Cup Fourth Round: a short trip to Suzhou for a match against Dongwu, one of the two remaining League Two side in the competition. (And if they win that, their luck holds: a possible Fifth Round match-up against the other League Two side, Heilongjiang Java Spring.)
Home cooking is tasty for Red Eagles
SIPG returned home for a Saturday night CSL match against Guizhou Zhicheng. Despite Guizhou’s surprise 3-1 beatdown of Guangzhou R&F last week, one of the smaller crowds of the season turned up at Shanghai Stadium.
They were rewarded with an utterly typical SIPG match: at the end of an unremarkable first half, a forty-third minute, gorgeous Hulk pass gave the captain, Wang Shenchao, his fourth goal in five years in an SIPG uniform.
SIPG came out stronger in the second half and knocked on the door several times, finally doubling their lead when a Hulk rocket from distance, right at the chest of undersized Guizhou keeper Su Boyang, with the ball knocking him over and barely slowing on it’s way into the net.
To Guizhou’s credit, they kept pressing forward. However, the best remaining chances fell to Shanghai’s ruthless counterattacks. Su made a good save on an Elkeson shot in the 88th minute but the rebound left the ball on Oscar’s foot with nothing between him and the goal except Aussie international defender Ryan McGowan.
Reacting instinctively, McGowan made the save of the match on Oscar’s shot, deflecting the ball up and over with his hands. Referee Gu Chunhan awarded the easiest red card of his life and Elkeson cooly converted the penalty with a worm-killer right up the middle. 3-0 Shanghai. Game.
None of this is to say that the match was a walkover: Guizhou had a goal disallowed by Gu in the first half because… well, hard to say, really. A mystery foul? They hit the crossbar with a shot in the second half and had at least two other good chances. SIPG’s defenders simply won’t allow Yan Junling an easy night.
SIPG’s next CSL match will be on Sunday at Tianjin Teda, currently languishing in the bottom half of the table behind, humiliatingly, newly promoted Tianjin Quanjian.
SIPG must choose: vegemite, yes or no?
Some version of SIPG now heads to Australia for a match on Wednesday in the ACL against the Western Sydney Wanderers. a match that SIPG may or may not want to win. (A loss in that match guarantees an ACL match-up in the Round of 16 against Jiangsu Suning, which has now failed to win in twelve straight matches against CSL sides.)
It’s possible SIPG will field only one regular player against Sydney: whichever one of Hulk, Oscar, Ahmedov and Elkeson Villas-Boas plans to sit against Tianjin.