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SIPG claims maiden CSL crown
11.08.2018

    SIPG claims maiden CSL crown

    Shanghai SIPG captain and Brazil striker Hulk holds up the Chinese Super League trophy as his jubilant teammates, including compatriot and playmaker Oscar, pose for the cameras following their 2-1 victory over Beijing Renhe at Shanghai Stadium last night. The win clinched SIPG’s maiden CSL title, with one round of matches still to go. Seven-time champion Guangzhou Evergrande lost 0-2 at struggling Chongqing Lifan, allowing SIPG to open up an insurmountable eight-point gap at the top.

    Shanghai SIPG was crowned Chinese Super League champion at Shanghai Stadium last night, following a 2-1 victory over Beijing Renhe. It was the club’s maiden CSL trophy and was won with one round of matches still to go. It was also the first CSL title for Shanghai since the league was launched in 2004.

    Captain Hulk missed the match due to injury; the striker was replaced by Odil Ahmedov. And it was the Uzbekistan midfielder who sent the stadium into raptures 20 minutes after kickoff, scoring the opener with a sumptuous curling effort from outside the box.

    Wu Lei enlarged the home side’s advantage just one minute into the second half when SIPG strikers caused panic among the Beijing defense in the box, allowing Wu to score his league-leading 27th goal of the season.

    Senegal striker Makhete Diop pulled one back for the visitors in the 64th.

    “It has been our dream for years,” said Wu, who was in tears after the match. “It was an excellent season and all players and coaches had this goal in mind. The players were more confident as a team this year, and could control (their) emotions better to get a result like this.”

    Wu also expressed his thanks to veteran Shanghai coach Xu Genbao, as a handful of SIPG players, including himself, were groomed at Xu’s training camp on Chongming Island.

    While SIPG was basking in victory, defending champion Guangzhou Evergrande lost 0-2 away to Chongqing Lifan, allowing SIPG to create an eight-point lead at the top of the standing on 68 points.

    The title was effectively in the bag for SIPG after it beat Fabio Cannavaro’s Evergrande 5-4 in a focus match four days ago for a five-point advantage with two matches to go. Yesterday’s match being SIPG’s last home game of the season, the Chinese Football Association decided to bring the trophy to Shanghai so that the players could celebrate the historical moment with home fans.

    The players changed into red T-shirts specially prepared for the awarding ceremony before Brazil star Hulk lifted the trophy at a jubilant Shanghai Stadium.

    “I have to thank the players, fans, the club and all the staff supporting us throughout the year,” SIPG coach Vitor Pereira said at his post-match press conference. “I hope next season we will be here again to fight for another title.”

    “We were out of the AFC Champions League and the CFA Cup this year. But look at the league, we were the stronger side in maybe 26 out of the 29 matches. The team deserves the title. We broke the seven-year dominance (of Guangzhou) and it’s a big thing,” added the Portuguese, who replaced his more illustrious compatriot Andre Villas-Boas at the beginning of the season.

    Shanghai Stadium had to restrict the number of spectators due to nearby constructions. For safety reason, only 20,000 spectators were allowed for this match, about 15,000 of whom were season ticket holders.

    Deducting tickets for sponsors and officials, there were very few tickets left for individual fans. Some scalpers outside the stadium were charging more than 1,000 yuan (US$145) per ticket before the match. Players also had to put up “no ticket” posts on their social media accounts in response to friends’ request for tickets.

    The club put out a statement two days before the match, encouraging fans to cheer for the team from home and watch the match on TV.

    Local SIPG fan Fan Junjie was among the lucky ones who had a ticket for the match. He asked for a day off work.

    “I am extremely excited though it’s an expected result,” Fan told Shanghai Daily. “I was a primary school student when I watched Shanghai (Shenhua) become the league champion 23 years ago. Now I am a father and I am very proud to see a team I have supported for years win a trophy for the city again.”

    The last top-tier league title Shanghai won was back in the Jia-A era when Shenhua became the champion for the 1995 season. Shenhua finished as champion in 2003 again, but was stripped off the title later due to match-fixing. Coming into the CSL era, Shandong won the crown three times (2006, 2008, 2010). Shenzhen (2004), Dalian (2005), Changchun (2007) and Beijing Guo’an (2009) each won once. Guangzhou Evergrande has since dominated, winning in the past seven years.