Big-money Brazilians inspire China's charge
Shanghai SIPG's Elkeson celebrates scoring a goal during the game against Japan's Urawa Red Diamonds in his team's 3-2 AFC Champions League Group F win in Shanghai on Wednesday. [Photo/VCG]
SHANGHAI - Prolific Shanghai SIPG striker Elkeson netted a 45-yard screamer as China's Brazilian imports justified their expensive price tags in the Asian Champions League on Wednesday.
Hulk, a $59 million signing from Zenit St Petersburg, was another Brazilian on the scoresheet as Andre Villas-Boas' SIPG maintained its 100 percent record in Group F with a 3-2 win against Japan's Urawa Red Diamonds.
SIPG's rival Jiangsu Suning also saw off Japanese opposition as former Chelsea midfielder Ramires took center-stage at Gamba Osaka, scoring the only goal in a man-of-the-match performance.
Elkeson's stunning strike past stranded goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa put SIPG 2-0 ahead on the stroke of halftime after Shi Ke's headed opener.
With Brazil international and record $64 million signing Oscar pulling the strings in midfield, it became 3-0 in the 52nd minute when the burly Hulk brushed off three tackles before blasting his shot past Nishikawa.
Urawa got one back against the run of play when Rafael Silva was hauled down in the box and got up to convert the penalty himself. And Wataru Endo's scrambled goal six minutes from time gave SIPG a few nervous moments before the final whistle.
In Osaka, Ramires ran the show as Jiangsu, bankrolled by retail giant Suning, which also controls Inter Milan, stayed on top of Group H with a 1-0 win.
The Brazilian midfielder, who cost Jiangsu $30 million from Chelsea in January 2016, fired home a sumptuous left-foot 20-yarder six minutes before the break.
"The victory is, of course, important for us. We are one step closer to reaching the next phase of the ACL," said Jiangsu head coach Choi Yong-soo, whose big-spending club is aiming for its first Asian title.
"But we are far from reaching our top level and we won't relax now. In the next few days, we will adjust ourselves and solve some problems."
Gamba threw everything forward in the second half as it went in search of an equalizer, but Jiangsu came closest to another goal with some lightning counter-attacking led by Ramires and fellow Brazilian Alex Teixeira, who cost $53 million from Shakhtar Donetsk.
Shanghai SIPG's Elkeson blows a kiss to fans after netting against Japan's Urawa Red Diamonds in his team's 3-2 AFC Champions League Group F win in Shanghai on Wednesday. [Photo/Xinhua]
"Our attacks were focused around Endo, but he was pressed by Jiangsu's Ji Xiang and we found it hard to link the play to him," said Gamba boss Kenta Hasegawa.
He added that Ramires' goal was unstoppable and dealt his players' morale a huge blow.
"Jiangsu bettered us in both organizing attacks and in movement," said Shu Kurata, who was named man of the match.
The result put Jiangsu five points clear at the top of Group H with three wins from three games.
Former Asian champion Western Sydney Wanderers had lost both of its opening Group F games but it stunned FC Seoul 3-2 in the Korean capital for the upset of the night.
The Australian side led 3-0 with just over an hour played, thanks to goals from Lachlan Scott, Terry Antonis, from the penalty spot, and Jaushua Sotirio, from long range.
Yun Il-lok gave the fans at Seoul World Cup Stadium hope with a tight-angled finish in the 66th minute. When he fired in his second six minutes later, an unlikely comeback looked to be in the offing..
However, the Wanderers managed to hold firm in the face of a late siege to take the three points.
Another Australian side, Adelaide United, got its first point of the campaign after coming from behind twice in a pulsating 3-3 Group H draw at home to Korea's Jeju United.
After a scoreless first half, Papa Diawara's 51st-minute penalty sparked a six-goal frenzy in the span of just 34 minutes.
Adelaide coach Guillermo Amor was relieved to see his side get off the mark but said: "This is only one point; we need more. When it was 1-2 and 2-3, it was difficult ... but we managed to accomplish what we needed o do."