SIPG closes in on first CSL title

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail SHINE, November 5, 2018
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Shanghai SIPG's Oscar is welcomed by fans at the airport as the team arrived in Shanghai yesterday after its 5-4 CSL victory over Guangzhou Evergrande.

Shanghai SIPG is one step away from winning the club's first Chinese Super League title after beating defending champion Guangzhou Evergrande 5-4 in a focus match to build a five-point advantage with two rounds to go.

The match at Guangzhou's Tianhe Stadium on Saturday was tipped as a championship decider. A victory would have allowed Fabio Cannavaro's Evergrande to surpass SIPG at the top of the CSL standing.

The match was a roller-coaster affair with SIPG twice taking the lead in the first half before Paulinho helped Evergrande reclaim a 3-2 advantage into the second half. Wu Lei's equalizer and an own goal by Evergrande defender Zhang Chenglin put the visitors ahead again before each side scored a penalty to fix the final score at 5-4.

"We did experience some roller-coaster emotions in the first half, as you know a match becomes very hard at Tianhe for a team that's behind," SIPG goalkeeper Yan Junling said after the match. "But we followed the coach's instructions well in the second half and trusted in ourselves. We will aim for victory four days later (in the next match) to seal the title."

The result also proved that the two teams have the best attack in this year's CSL. Evergrande has scored 77 goals in 28 rounds, topping the league. SIPG is next with 73 goals. But SIPG has conceded the least number of 29 goals compared to Evergrande's 33.

"The mistake today was we relied too much on players' personal ability," Cannavaro said after the defeat. "I didn't expect to concede five goals to SIPG. We also conceded five goals to R&F (in the Guangzhou derby). It seems when it comes to (focus) matches like this, the players forget that we are a team.

"With two matches left, the pity is that we had the chance to take the initiative, now it belongs to others. I want to congratulate SIPG. They are the only team to beat us both home and away this year."

The Italian said the team would need new blood if it wants to win the league title next year.

Evergrande created its era in China's top-tier league by winning seven CSL titles in a row. If SIPG gets at least one point from its next home match against Beijing Renhe on Wednesday, the CSL will finally welcome a new champion after seven years. It would also become the first CSL title won by a Shanghai team.

SIPG leads the CSL standing on 65 points, followed by Evergrande on 60. Evergrande will take on Chongqing Lifan away on Wednesday. Chongqing, which shares second-last place with Tianjin Teda on 29 points, will be fighting for points to avoid relegation. The team already doomed for the drop is Guizhou Hengfeng, which has 21 points.

Shanghai Greenland Shenhua lost 0-2 to Henan Jianye in another Saturday match. It is sixth in the standing on 37 points.

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