Elkeson strikes for Shanghai SIPG; Suwon Bluewings defeat Shenhua
Shanghai SIPG secured their place in the knockout rounds of the Asian Champions League on Tuesday evening as an improved second-half performance earned the Chinese Super League side a 1-0 win over Ulsan Hyundai.
Elkeson scored the only goal of the game five minutes after the break and following the half-time introduction of Odil Ahmedov and Wu Lei, which turned the game in SIPG's favour.
As promised, coach Vitor Pereira altered his lineup after Saturday's domestic victory over Shanghai Shenhua, calling up Lin Chuangyin and Lu Wenjun for Ahmedov and Wu, but SIPG struggled for fluency.
Ulsan dominated and should have gone into the break leading after Yohei Toyoda and Richard Windbichler squandered opportunities to give the K League side an advantage ahead of the interval.
Pereira's half-time changes brought about the desired effect, and within five minutes of the resumption, SIPG claimed the only goal of the game when Hulk stormed into the Ulsan penalty area before cutting the ball back for Elkeson to score from close range.
"If I had a week to prepare for this match then we would have used different tactics," Pereira said. "In Ulsan's K League game, they rotated players in the last round, but for us, we just played the derby and then flew here. We haven't rotated players and we are not in the best physical shape, so we used alternative tactics.
"Overall, I'm satisfied with the performance. All of the players, not only those who have played today, have been fighting together and this is the team spirit we need. We will overcome difficulties together and we showed solidarity."
The win moves SIPG on to 10 points from their first four games and, with Melbourne Victory defeating Kawasaki Frontale 1-0 in the other game, the Chinese Super League side cannot finish outside the top two positions in Group F.
SIPG lead the group with Ulsan and Melbourne on five points and Frontale on just one. With Ulsan and Melbourne still to face each other, only one can finish above Shanghai, ensuring the club's qualification for the knockout phase for the third season in a row.
Matters are less positive for Shanghai Shenhua, who suffered their first defeat of the campaign after a lacklustre performance against Suwon Bluewings resulted in Wu Jingui's side slipping to a 2-0 defeat.
Neither side impressed in a dire opening 45 minutes but Dejan Damjanovic put Suwon in front five minutes into the second half and Choi Seung-Guen claimed the crucial second in the dying minutes to keep the Korean side's round-of-16 hopes alive.
Kashima Antlers lead Group H with eight points despite being held to a 1-1 draw by Sydney FC with Suwon on seven points in second and Shenhua in third with three from their opening trio of draws.
In Group C, Xavi scored in the third minute as Al Sadd defeated visiting FC Nazaf 4-0, and Al Wasl lost 1-0 at home against Persepolis. Meanwhile, Tractorsazi Tabriz and Al Jazira drew 1-1 with Al Ahli Saudi and Al Gharafa drawing 1-1.
Michael Church has written about Asian football for more than 20 years and mainly covers the Chinese game for ESPN FC. Twitter: @michaelrgchurch