Wu's double puts SIPG on verge of Asian Champions League semis
HONG KONG (Reuters) - Wu Lei scored twice as Shanghai SIPG comfortably defeated two-time Asian Champions League winners Guangzhou Evergrande 4-0 on Tuesday in the first leg of their all-Chinese Super League quarter-final of the continental club championship.
Playing for the first time in the Asian Champions League since the departure of Brazilian midfielder Paulinho in a 40 million euro ($47 million) transfer to Barcelona last week, Evergrande were torn apart by Andre Villas-Boas' side, who are now one game away from their first appearance in the semi-finals of the competition.
"SIPG deserved the win," said Evergrande coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, whose team lead SIPG by eight points in the domestic standings.
"We paid the price for the tight and intensive match schedule. We also paid the price for the absence of Paulinho, Huang Bowen and Mei Fang and we were playing against such a strong opponent."
SIPG controlled the opening half hour, but were only able to find a breakthrough in the 38th minute when Hulk scored from the penalty spot after Zhang Linpeng had bundled Wu Lei over in the area.
A minute into first half stoppage time, SIPG doubled their lead when Wang Shenchao was left unattended from close range to head in Hulk's curling cross from the left.
Wu claimed his first goal of the game in the 62nd minute after linking up with substitute Elkeson, who heeled a return ball into the path of the China international who then fired his shot past Guangzhou goalkeeper Zeng Cheng.
Two minutes later, Wu struck again to leave Evergrande with a mountain to climb when the teams meet on September 12, as he finished off a rapid break led by Hulk.
"Our players deserved the win," said Villas-Boas.
"We have had a very difficult time in the Chinese Super League but today we overcame lots of obstacles and had an excellent game.
"We've been chasing Evergrande all the time. We have to keep in mind that there is the away game to go. Evergrande is a team that keeps winning games all the time."
In the western half of the draw, last year's runners-up Al Ain of the United Arab Emirates were held to a 0-0 draw by Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal in their quarter-final first leg.
The two teams will face each other again on September 11, with the winner meeting either Iran's Persepolis or Al Ahli, also of Saudi Arabia.
"It's difficult to say who is closer," said Al Ain head coach Zoran Mamic after the draw in front of his club's own fans. "We are satisfied with this result.
"We didn't concede a goal, which is very important. And after three weeks I'm sure my team will be much more ready."
($1 = 0.8501 euros)
(Reporting by Michael Church; Editing by Christian Radnedge)