Hulk nets scorcher but Shanghai held by Urawa

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

A trademark scorcher from Hulk was unable to hand Shanghai SIPG victory as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Urawa Red Diamonds in the first leg of their AFC Champions League semi-final.

The Brazilian opened the scoring at the Shanghai Stadium with an unstoppable 25-yard effort to give the hosts a 15th-minute lead.

But Urawa hit back three minutes before the half-hour mark via a clinical finish by Yosuke Kashiwagi, which ultimately proved enough to earn the Japanese side a draw.

Wednesday’s result leaves the last-four clash evenly poised ahead of the return encounter on October 18, although the Reds are arguably in the driving seat with the advantage of an away goal.

Nonetheless, Shanghai will certainly have every reason to be confident, especially with coach Andre Villas-Boas having quality individuals such as Hulk at his disposal.

The former Porto and Zenit St Petersburg star handed his side the lead after 15 minutes, bulldozing his way through a couple of defenders before rifling an unstoppable shot into the bottom corner.

It could have been 2-0 five minutes later when Elkeson wriggled his way free inside the box, but his powerful drive was well saved by Shusaki Nishikawa.

Despite a strong start by the Chinese Super League giants, Urawa were showing plenty of positive signs too.

And, in the 27th minute, Shinzo Koroki did well to guide Takuya Aoki’s lofted pass into the path of Kashiwagi, who made no mistake in sending a lovely finish on his weaker right foot past Chen Wei.

At this stage, the Reds were enjoying the dominant share of possession although it was Shanghai who looked the more dangerous in the attacking third.

Villas-Boas’ charges came close to reclaiming the lead six minutes before halftime; Oscar’s fizzing shot forcing Nishikawa into a smart save before Wu Lei somehow could only send a follow-up header inches wide.

Oscar came even closer in the 69th minute with a freekick from the edge of the box, leaving Nishikawa rooted to the spot with a swerving effort only to see it come back off the post.

As the game wore on, Urawa looked increasingly content to take a draw back to Saitama but there could have been one final twist of the tale with two minutes remaining.

A poor back-pass from Reds substitute Toshiyuki Takagi was pounced on by Wu and sent him charging towards goal.

However, the usually-lethal forward could only fire wide with plenty to aim for, spurning the final opportunity for the hosts to snatch victory.

SHANGHAI SIPG: Chen Wei, Fu Huan, He Guan, Shi Ke, Wei Zhen (Yu Hai 54’), Cai Huikang, Odil Ahmedov (Li Shenglong 88’), Oscar, Hulk, Wu Lei, Elkeson (Lu Wenjun 74’).

URAWA RED DIAMONDS: Shusaki Nishikawa, Wataru Endo, Yuki Abe, Mauricio Antonio, Tomoaki Makino, Takuya Aoki, Yosuke Kashiwagi (Tomoya Ugajin 90’), Kazuki Nagasawa, Rafael Silva (Toshiyuki Takagi 80’), Yuki Muto, Shinzo Koroki (Zlatan Ljubijankic 90’).