AFC Champions League

With Shanghai SIPG ensuring four Chinese Super League clubs make the AFC Champions League groups is it their year?

Last season’s semi-finalists join league champions Guangzhou Evergrande, city rivals Shenhua and Tianjin Quanjian in the group stages next month

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 January, 2018, 9:48pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 January, 2018, 9:50pm

Shanghai SIPG were made to wait to join fellow Chinese Super League sides Guangzhou Evergrande, Shanghai Shenhua and Tianjin Quanjian in the AFC Champions League group stages with a 1-0 win over Thai side Chiangrai United in the final play-off game.

Guangzhou Evergrande qualified as champions, while SIPG’s crosstown rivals Shenhua won their Chinese FA Cup final to take the other automatic place.

That meant that SIPG, who reached the Champions League semi-final last season as well as finishing runners-up in the league and the cup, and Tianjin, who won earlier in the day, had to go through the play-offs.

The hosts were made to work for their win at Shanghai Stadium against Thai side Chiangrai United, with a goal from Yu Hai just after half time separating the sides. Yu had earlier been booked for fouling the impressive Chiangrai goalkeeper Chatchai Budprom.

SIPG started with Brazilian duo Hulk and Oscar alongside Uzbek Odil Ahmedov as their foreign contingent. The Chinese Super League’s all-time top foreign goalscorer Elkeson joined the action in the second half.

The 1-0 victory marked a first competitive win for new manager Vitor Pereira, having succeeded Andre Villas-Boas in the SIPG dugout. His fellow Portuguese predecessor left the club to take part in the Dakar Rally and Pereira has promised to deliver silverware in his first season.

SIPG’s reward for their victory is the final place in Group F alongside Kawasaki Frontale of Japan, South Korea’s Ulsan Hyundai and Australian team Melbourne Victory.

Shenhua also face teams from Japan, Australia and South Korea in Group H where they meet Sydney FC, Kashima Antlers and Suwon Samsung Bluewings,

Twice Champions League winners Guangzhou Evergrande are in Group G with Thai side Buriram United, J-League outfit Cerezo Osaka and K-League club Jeju United.

Diego Forlan’s Kitchee will kick off AFC Champions League in China after Tianjin Quanjian avoid upset to Philippine underdogs

The final CSL team, Tianjin Quanjian, face Hong Kong Premier League side and fellow Champions League first-timers Kitchee, J-League side Kashiwa Reysol and South Korea’s Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.

The Chinese Super League season only kicks off in March but by then the teams involved in the Champions League will have already played twice in the group stage starting on February 13.