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Shanghai SIPG advances into AFC semis on dramatic night

Guangzhou Evergrande’s Li Xuepeng, left, competes for the ball with Shanghai SIPG’s Hulk during their AFC Champions League quarterfinal football match in Guangzhou in China’s southern Guangdong province on Tuesday. (AFP)
GUANGZHOU: Shanghai SIPG survived an almighty scare to sneak into the semifinals of the AFC Champions League 5-4 on penalties and break Guangzhou Evergrande hearts on Tuesday.
Midfielder Yu Hai was the hero for Andre Villas-Boas’ battered side, holding his nerve to bury the decisive spot-kick and SIPG will face either of the Japanese teams Kawasaki Frontale or Urawa Reds in the last four.
It was a thrilling game of high drama between the top two teams in the Chinese Super League (CSL).
Hosts Evergrande won 5-1 on the night in extra time, the quarterfinal tie ending 5-5 on aggregate.
The Brazilian Ricardo Goulart scored a hat-trick for Evergrande, forcing extra time with his second and then rescuing the game at 5-5 on 118 minutes.
But it was he who missed Evergrande’s penalty in the shootout, leaving him in tears afterwards as the SIPG players and staff celebrated on the pitch.
The battered visitors SIPG played most of extra time with 10 men after Wang Jiajie was booked for a second time.
The Brazilian bruiser Hulk stepped up on 110 minutes to slam the ball into the net with a blockbuster of a free kick and make it a scarcely believable 5-4 on aggregate.
But just when SIPG thought they were going through, the Brazilian Muriqui was felled in the box and Goulart buried the penalty with two minutes left on the clock for 5-5 on aggregate, his hat-trick and penalties.
The 28-year-old winger Alan was chief tormentor in the first half, punishing some slapstick SIPG defending to give Evergrande a glimmer of hope on 21 minutes when he rounded Yan Junling.
It was just a taste of the drama to come.
On 35 minutes the Brazilian was at it again, darting in to head home and make it 2-0 on the night, 4-2 to SIPG on aggregate.
It was game on and Evergrande, odds-on to retain their CSL title with SIPG a distant second, and their manager Luiz Felipe Scolari went into the break smelling blood.
Villas-Boas had seen enough and made two changes at halftime. The Portuguese, who like Scolari is a former Chelsea manager, raged on the sidelines as Evergrande pushed for a third.
Goulart stooped to make it 4-3 on aggregate with seven minutes left and then headed home again in the first minute of injury time to drag the game into extra time.

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