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)
Updated 13 September 2017

Shanghai SIPG advances into AFC semis on dramatic night

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.

World No. 1 Brooks Koepka in defiant mood ahead of return to Saudi International at KAEC

Updated 55 min 14 sec ago

World No. 1 Brooks Koepka in defiant mood ahead of return to Saudi International at KAEC

  • Saudi International is returning to King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) next week
  • Second edition of the tournament, which is part of the European Tour

JEDDAH: The Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers is returning to King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) next week from Jan. 30 — Feb. 2.

World No. 1 Brooks Koepka shared his thoughts about his chances ahead of the European Tour event at Royal Greens & Country Club.

Q. You’re currently on the verge of breaking into the top 10 players to have spent longest at world #1. What does that mean to you and are records something you’re driven by?
Brooks Koepka: It’s great to be world number one, and I want to stay there but being number one is really a by-product of playing well, which is my first aim. There are lots of other world-class golfers playing well at the moment and this week is a good chance to win some valuable points to keep me at the top.

Q. Your often-discussed record in majors proves that you are a golfer who can play arguably his best golf under the greatest of pressures. Where do you think this coolness on the big stage comes from?
BK: I think it’s just because I am very competitive, and I love to win. No athlete plays a sport just to take part: everyone wants to win. That drives me to play my best golf when it really matters. I also work hard off the course so that I am as prepared as I can be when I get into the heat of competition.

Q. The Saudi International marks your second tournament back from injury (knee). How are you feeling heading into it?
BK: I’m feeling really good. It’s going to be my second tournament since October, so I am excited to get back on the course and compete against some of the world’s best players. It’s never a good thing being injured but I’ve come back from injury well before. In some ways it gives you a chance to recharge and start the new year fresh.

Q. Does an injury like the one you’ve experienced change your mindset when you return?
BK: I’m playing to win. Once I’m on the course, I forget everything else and just play golf. I didn’t play my best golf here last year so I’m ready for a strong finish in Saudi.

Q. How important is it for golf to be coming to Saudi Arabia and bringing the game into a new market?
BK: It’s great to see the game growing worldwide and having played in Saudi Arabia last year, I know the positive effect the tournament had on the country.

Q. What do you hope to learn from Saudi Arabia during your time competing and how excited are you about playing in the tournament?
BK: I am really looking forward to playing at Royal Greens again as I thought the layout was really impressive. I hope my experience playing in this event last year will allow me to contend for this year’s title.

Q. More young people in Saudi Arabia are watching sport or taking up sport. What would you say to encourage them to take up golf and what can they learn from the sport?
It’s great to see so many young people wanting to get into the game. If you enjoy watching it, you will certainly love playing it.

Q. What’s the ambition for 2020 after such strong seasons in 2018 and 2019?
Right now, I just want to get back playing. I’m looking forward to a strong season and being in contention in all of the tournaments I play in, which come September will put me in a strong position for the Ryder Cup. As far as I am concerned, the Saudi International is the most important tournament in front of me right now.

Q. Many people in Saudi Arabia will not have attended a golf championship. What can they expect, and what do fans get from watching the golf live and up close that is just impossible to experience through the TV?
I think coming to a golf event is the best way to watch the game. You are part of the event, you can see exactly what the players are going through at any point. You can also follow your favorite golfers around the course all day, which sometimes the TV doesn’t do depending on who you want to follow.