Opening win for Shanghai SIPG, Jeonbuk produce stunning comeback

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Shanghai SIPG got their 2018 AFC Champions League campaign off to a winning start as they beat Kawasaki Frontale 1-0 on Tuesday.

The only goal of the game at the Todoroki Athletics Stadium came in the 23rd minute, when Elkeson brilliantly chested down a Yu Hai cross and fired away a volley that Jung Sung-ryong got a hand to but was unable to keep out.

The narrow victory was enough to leave the Chinese Super League giants top of Group F following Match Day 1, after Melbourne Victory and Ulsan Hyundai played out a 3-3 draw at the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium.

In what proved to be an absolute thriller, Mislav Orsic put the South Korean visitors ahead in the 24th minute with a fantastic 25-yard freekick, only for Leroy George to equalise for Victory two minutes later when he scored on the rebound after Besart Berisha’s initial effort had been spilled by Kim Yong-dae.

Ulsan reclaimed the lead four minutes after the half-hour mark when an Orsic corner was headed home at the near post by Richard Windbichler, but the hosts again equalised soon after when George played a neat one-two with Berisha and fired in at the near post in the 37th minute.

Six minutes into the second half, Ulsan edged ahead once more through another fine effort from Orsic, who received possession on the edge of the box and curled a sublime effort into the far corner.

Nonetheless, the A-League outfit refused to give in and earned a share of the spoils three minutes later; Rhys Williams left unmarked inside the box to nod home a George freekick from close range.

Over in Group E, 2016 champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors produced a remarkable revival to come from two goals down and defeat Kashiwa Reysol 3-2 at the Jeonju World Cup Stadium.

It originally looked as though Kashiwa would be coasting to victory as they claimed a 2-0 lead inside the opening half hour after a couple of errors by Jeonbuk keeper Hong Jeong-nam.

First, Hong inexplicably charged out of his box and allowed Ramon Lopes to nip in ahead of him to finish into an unguarded net, before his failure to deal with an effort from the Brazilian left Ataru Esaka with a simple tap-in.

However, the halftime introduction of veteran striker Lee Dong-gook proved to be an inspired move by Jeonbuk coach Choi Kang-hee.

The 38-year-old reduced the deficit ten minutes after his introduction as he headed home a corner, and Kim Jin-su then levelled the scores in the 75th minute when he pounced on a loose ball and sent an acrobatic volley into the back of the net.

Then, with six minutes left on the clock, Lee produced a clever turn to create space for himself before bending an exquisite curler in off the bar to complete a stunning comeback by the hosts.

Finally, Group E’s other game saw Tianjin Quanjian net three goals in eight minutes on their way to a comfortable 3-0 triumph over Kitchee.

Anthony Modeste broke the deadlock at the Tianjin Olympic Center Stadium with a deft header into the bottom corner from Mi Haolun’s left-wing delivery, which was followed by a Paulinho own-goal four minutes later.

And, six minutes before the break, Sun Ke ghosted in at the far post to meet an inch-perfect delivery from Wang Yongpo with a diving header past Wang Zhenpeng to wrap up the three points for Tianjin.