SIPG, Tianjin open AFC Champions League group stage with victories
Chinese Super League sides Shanghai SIPG and Tianjin Quanjian made winning starts to their Asian Champions League campaigns on Tuesday evening.
Vitor Pereira’s SIPG side had a solitary goal from Brazilian striker Elkeson to thank for their 1-0 win over Japanese champions Kawasaki Frontale as the big-spending side from Shanghai seek to build on last season’s run to the semifinals.
Elkeson’s goal came in the 23rd minute when he controlled the ball on his chest on the edge of the area before firing a low bobbling shot that Kawasaki goalkeeper Jung Sung-ryong was unable to keep out.
“It has been a tough week for us,” said Pereira, who replaced Andre Villas-Boas at the conclusion of last season. “Both Oscar and Odil Ahmedov were injured [and] Hulk has been sick this week too. Fortunately, they all had good performances in the game.
“We had expected a difficult match. Our opponent is good in possession and on the counter attack. Thanks to our medical team for the excellent job they did to bring back our players from injury so they could play for 90 minutes.
“Elkeson played pretty well today and scored an important goal. What matters most is his fighting attitude. He was fighting all the time.”
Anthony Modeste, meanwhile, was central to Tianjin’s 3-0 win over Hong Kong side Kitchee in their first appearance in the group stages of the continental championship.
Kitchee, boasting 38-year-old Diego Forlan in attack, held out for the opening 32 minutes before Modeste scored with a perfectly directed header.
The Frenchman was involved again four minutes later, seeing his shot directed into the Kitchee goal by visiting defender Paulinho.
And, with six minutes remaining in the half, Tianjin put the result beyond any doubt when Sun Ke dived to head home Wang Yongpo’s curling cross form the right as the home side cruised to victory.
“We’re happy that we have won the game,” Modeste said. “We did a good job. This is the first game in the Asian Champions League for Tianjin Quanjian and it is very important to win the first game.”
Two-time champions Guangzhou Evergrande will host Buriram United of Thailand in their opening game of the 2018 campaign on Wednesday evening, while Shanghai Shenhua mark their return to the group stages for the first time in seven years when they take on Japan’s Kashima Antlers.
Michael Church has written about Asian football for more than 20 years and mainly covers the Chinese game for ESPN FC. Twitter: @michaelrgchurch