Hulkless, goalless Shanghai SIPG held by Jeonbuk in Asian Champions League quarter-finals first leg
Injured Brazilian forward Hulk sat out again as his Shanghai SIPG side drew 0-0 at home to Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in the Asian Champions League quarter-final first leg on Tuesday.
Former champions Al Ain were also held to a goalless stalemate by Uzbekistan’s Lokomotiv in the sapping heat of the UAE in the West Asian leg of the tournament.
The powerfully built Hulk played just 21 minutes of football before being injured on his debut on July 11 after a high-profile US$61 million transfer from Zenit St Petersburg.
The Shanghai side’s coach, former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, had hoped at the weekend that Hulk might be fit to make his comeback in the Champions League clash.
But Hulk’s name was absent from the team sheet on Tuesday along with that of another key player, Argentine playmaker Dario Conca, who could be out for the season, the club said, after sustaining a knee injury in a domestic match on Friday.
The first decent chance did not fall until the 25th minute when a long ball was expertly-controlled by Chinese international forward Wu Lei whose square pass into the box fell just short of his strike partner Elkeson.
Just two minutes later the Brazilian front man, who won the Asian Champions League last season with Guangzhou Evergrande, had the 33,000-strong crowd screaming for a penalty when he fell at the edge of Jeonbuk’s box.
However, Australian referee Benjamin Williams gave a free kick outside the 18-yard area which Elkeson blasted straight against the wall.
In the 37th minute, Jeonbuk’s Brazilian forward Leonardo hit the post with a curling effort from outside the box.
A whipping free kick from Lu Wenjun almost put SIPG ahead but Jeonbuk goalkeeper Kwoun Sun-Tae pushed the effort wide in the 54th minute.
SIPG enjoyed a spell of heavy pressure towards the end as an unusually animated Eriksson urged his charges on from the touchline.
His exhortations almost paid off when Wu Lei went close with a backwards header from inside the box two minutes from time.
“I think it was an acceptable outcome,” Eriksson said after the match. “They had some chances, we had some chances, so it was even.
“A clean sheet at home is very important. The tie is still open and there are still possibilities for us to reach the semi-final.”
The second leg is on September 13 in Jeonju, South Korea and Eriksson said Hulk should be back for it.
“If everything goes as we plan, as the doctors plan, then Hulk will be ready for our next Chinese Super League game against Beijing,” said Eriksson.
“That would mean he would be ready for the AFC Champions League game in Korea - fingers crossed.”