Chinese Super League title race takes another twist as Wu Lei and Elkeson help Shanghai SIPG hold on to beat Guangzhou Evergrande
Paulinho denied hat trick as Fabio Cannavaro’s side have three goals ruled out before hosts hang on to open up four point gap at top by winning game in hand
Shanghai SIPG took a huge step closer to winning their first Chinese Super League title on Tuesday night with a dramatic win over champions Guangzhou Evergrande at Shanghai Stadium.
The game had been rescheduled from match week 13 and it was the hosts that hung on to take the spoils from the game in hand that the top two had over third-placed Beijing Guoan.
It is also the first time SIPG have beaten Evergrande in the league.
Since they were promoted for the 2013 season, they have played 10 times in the CSL, losing five and drawing five.
It was an SIPG ever-present that opened the scoring.
Wu Lei latched on to a pass in the first minute and smashed the ball home for his 21st goal in 21 games this season, but the joy for the home fans was short-lived.
For the next 50 minutes of the first half – there were six minutes added on for stoppages – it was all Evergrande and the hosts were hanging on and thanking VAR.
Paulinho thought he had equalised after 26 minutes but it was rightly ruled out for handball
It was he again that put the ball in the net six minutes later, turning home after some pinball following a free kick. However, he was in an offside position.
Finally, Yu Hanchao had the ball in the net deep into stoppage time at the end of the half but his looping header was ruled out for offside.
The hosts were made to sweat even more on a balmy evening as the champions finally broke their resistance without breaking the laws of the game.
When the goal did eventually come in the 56th minute it was Paulinho, third time lucky, who headed in.
The relief on the Brazilian’s face at finally getting his side back on terms was short lived. Wu Lei had what he thought was a second but that too was disallowed for offside.
When the winner did come it was as fitting as Wu Lei scoring the opener.
Elkeson is the least high profile of SIPG’s Brazilian triumvirate. He’s arguably the least high profile of the six Brazilians on the pitch last night behind teammates Oscar and Hulk, and Evergrande’s Paulinho, Anderson Talisca and Ricardo Goulart.
Nevertheless, he did what he has done best since arriving in China in 2013: scored important goals.
It was at Evergrande where he made his name winning the title and continental crown before swapping to Shanghai ahead of the 2016 season.
When he did so, his former club explained it was to help their fellow Chinese club make an impact on the AFC Champions League, for “national glory”.
Well, last night’s 72nd minute strike might see SIPG enter the 2019 tournament as champions.
In what could have been the Best Goal of the Season, the Referee and his cohorts decided to disallow this beautiful goal. This is a very wrong decision. #Ighalo #Csl #ChangChunYatai pic.twitter.com/ElxlmUbAQS
— Jude Ighalo Fans (@judeighalofans) 15 September 2018
It was a historic win for SIPG but what chance do they have of making history this season and ending Evegrande’s run of seven titles in a row?
With the team’s four-point lead at the top of the table and eight games left, stats website Five Thirty Eight has Shanghai SIPG at 55 per cent to win the title.
Guangzhou Evergrande are at 35 per cent and Beijing Guoan are at 10 per cent.
Those probabilities are set to change at the weekend.
SIPG have Changchun Yatai at home and barring another Odion Ighalo wonder goal like the one ruled out by VAR in their 3-0 win over Guizhou at the weekend then they should win that and if they don’t then they do not deserve to be champions.
It would be very SIPG of them to lose to the worst team in the league after grinding out that first league victory over Evergrande.
Evergrande have the biggest banana skin of the lot in fifth placed Jiangsu Suning.
If the last couple of games have been any indication then this is going to the wire and we can’t rule out VAR deciding where the title goes.