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SIPG advances as Shenhua falls

    Shanghai SIPG booked a spot in the last 16 of the AFC Champions League with two rounds to spare following a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Ulsan Hyundai at Ulsan Munsu Football Stadium yesterday.

    Shanghai Greenland Shenhua, however, slumped to a 0-1 defeat to another South Korean side, Suwon Samsung Bluewings, at Hongkou Football Stadium, and its chances of advancing from Group H appear slim.

    Brazil striker Elkeson scored the only goal in SIPG’s victory — the 2017 semifinalist’s third win in the past four ACL matches this year.

    SIPG manager Vitor Pereira left regular starters Wu Lei, Wang Shenchao and Odil Ahmedov on the bench, though Wu and Ahmedov came on as second-half substitutes.

    Ulsan, the 2012 AFC winner, created more openings in the early part of the duel. Yohei Toyoda headed over just meters away from SIPG’s goal three minutes into the match. Kim In-sung also had a chance when he rounded SIPG goalie Yan Junling before his cut-back evaded his teammates.

    SIPG’s first sniff at goal came in the 30th when Oscar’s free kick was tipped over by Ulsan goalie Oh Seong-hoon. The former Chelsea striker almost found net six minutes later when another free kick of his was tipped onto the bar by Oh.

    A moment of magic from Hulk five minutes after the break led to the first — and only — goal. The burly Brazilian charged into Ulsan’s box and crossed for Elkeson to do the needful. Ulsan continued with its dominant possession but struggled for an equalizer.

    The result put the Chinese Super League club five points clear at the top of Group F on 10 points. Ulsan remained second on five points along with Melbourne Victory. Ulsan and Melbourne meet in their next match, which could decide who joins SIPG in the last 16.

    Victory edged Japan’s Kawasaki Frontale 1-0 in Melbourne with Kosta Barbarouses firing home a dramatic last-minute goal.

    “To be fair, I thought we had control of the second half and the persistence of this team, we’re always going to get chances,” Barbarouses told Fox Sports. “We never give up.”

    In an earlier Group H match, fellow CSL club Shenhua, targeting a first win of its Asian campaign after three successive draws, slumped at home against Suwon.

    Victory, achieved courtesy of two second-half goals by Montenegro striker Dejan Damjanovic and Choi Sung-geun, gave the South Koreans seven points, a point behind group leaders Kashima Antlers.

    The J League club drew 1-1 at home to Sydney FC yesterday.

    Shenhua remains third in the group on three points, and its chances of advancing are looking very bleak. Sydney is bottom with two points.