Chinese Super League

Shanghai SIPG boss Andre Villas-Boas defends ‘ridiculous’ use of Chinese Super League under-23 quota

Guangzhou Evergrande end Shanghai SIPG’s perfect record in 2017 with 3-2 win on Saturday thanks to an 80th-minute penalty from Brazilian striker Ricardo Goulart

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 April, 2017, 1:58pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 April, 2017, 11:24pm

Andre Villas-Boas claimed it would have been “ridiculous” to withdraw teenage defender Zhang Huachen in the first minute of Saturday’s 3-2 defeat by Guangzhou Evergrande, but the word seems to perfectly describe the way the Shanghai SIPG coach is finding a way around the Chinese Super League’s under-23 quota this season.

The Portuguese coach has been highly critical of new rules introduced this season which see teams forced to field one Chinese under-23 player in the starting 11, while the number of foreign players in a matchday squad has been reduced to three.

In all three games this season, Villas-Boas has fulfilled this requirement by starting 19-year-old Zhang, but the defender has amassed just 62 minutes from those appearances after being withdrawn in the first half in every game.

“I was considering when to change him, but we can’t change the young players at the first minute of the game, that will be ridiculous,” said Villas-Boas after suffering his first defeat in seven competitive games as SIPG coach having been appointed at the end of last year.

“I always say that the players should play in a very natural way instead of in a forced way. Our under-23 players are not under-23, they are under-21. We can only adapt to that slowly.”

Other Super League coaches have followed suit in some other matches this season, but Villas-Boas has consistently employed this tactic with Zhang withdrawn after 15 minutes against Evergrande.

Andre Villas-Boas again hits out at Chinese Super League foreign player rules despite Shanghai SIPG win

He had managed 30 minutes of the season-opening 5-1 win over Changchun Yatai before featuring for just 17 minutes of the 2-0 victory against Yanbian Funde.

SIPG were trailing at the time of Zhang’s latest withdrawn, and despite making a spirited second-half comeback to erase Evergrande’s 2-0 half-time lead, Ricardo Goulart’s 80th-minute penalty handed Villas-Boas’s side a first defeat of the season.

“Obviously this is not the result that we wanted. We were slow into the game and that’s why we were 2-0 down at the beginning of the game,” said Villas-Boas.

“After making a lot of effort we drew level at 2-2 and actually we had chances to make it 3-2, but we didn’t take them.

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“I should say both teams were more open in the second half and it would have been more fair to finish the game with a draw, but we also saw that Evergrande were trying very hard and they got a penalty in the end. We played better in the second half, but this is not the result we wanted.”

Watch: Eran Zahavi score for Guangzhou R&F against Yanbian Funde

SIPG still find themselves in third place in the table, with Shandong Luneng maintaining their 100 per cent start with Guangzhou R&F after recording a 2-0 victory over Changchun Yatai on Sunday thanks to two goals from Papiss Cisse.

Elsewhere on Sunday, Beijing Guoan edged out Shanghai Shenhua 2-1, while Tianjin Teda beat Chongqing Lifan 2-0 and Liaoning Whowin recorded a 3-1 win over Jiangsu Suning.