​Shanghai SIPG power into ACL group stage

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, January 29, 2020
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Shanghai SIPG secured their place in the group phase of the 2020 AFC Champions League on Tuesday as late goals from Li Shenglong, Marko Arnautovic and Hulk earned the Chinese side a 3-0 play-off win over Buriram United at Shanghai Yuanshen Stadium.

Li broke Buriram's stubborn resistance 15 minutes from time in a one-sided match-up in which the Thais defended doggedly before Arnautovic added a second in injury time and Hulk struck from the penalty spot.

Vitor Pereira's side will now feature in Group H of the AFC Champions League, where they will meet Australia's Sydney FC, J.League champions Yokohama F Marinos and two-time champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors from Korea Republic.

SIPG deservedly advanced even if last year's quarter-finalists initially struggled to turn their superiority into goals against the Thai Premier League side.

Oscar threatened within the opening five minutes when he received a return pass from Arnautovic inside the area before striking at goal, but goalkeeper Siwarak Tedsungnoen pushed the Brazilian's strike away for a corner.

The former Chelsea star looked the most likely Shanghai player to unlock the Buriram defence, bending his free-kick wide of Siwarak's right post and seeing his goal-bound effort saved on the line by the custodian in first half injury time.

Siwarak had been kept busy between Oscar's efforts by Arnautovic, whose right-foot shot after receiving the ball side-on to goal needed the Buriram goalkeeper to have his wits about him. Hulk, meanwhile, curled his attempt from inside the area wide.

Oscar continued to pull SIPG's strings in the second half, setting up Arnautovic to volley wide on the hour mark while Hulk fired over from distance moments later as the home side dominated.

Hulk fired across the face of goal after Odil Ahmedov's ball from the right and Arnautovic finally found a way through the Buriram defence when a return pass from Hulk sent the Austrian behind the backline, only for Sirawak to block the striker's shot.

With 15 minutes remaining, however, SIPG's opener finally came. Substitute Chen Binbin sent in a low centre from the left and, although Arnautovic was hauled to the ground, play was allowed to continue and Li finished confidently at the far post.

Arnautovic put the result beyond doubt when he stabbed the ball home from close range in the second minute of added time and Hulk fired the ball high into the top corner from the penalty spot with just seconds remaining as the scoreline finally reflected SIPG's dominance.

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