SIPG peg back Jeonbuk’s flying start for 1-1 draw

Shanghai SIPG's Wang Shenchao celebrates during their AFC Champions League round of 16 match against Jeonbuk. (AFP)
Updated 20 June 2019

SIPG peg back Jeonbuk’s flying start for 1-1 draw

SAITAMA: Jeonbuk Motors got off to a flying start in the AFC Champions League last 16 on Wednesday, scoring in the first minute in Shanghai before being pegged back by SIPG in a 1-1 draw.

On a good night for South Korean sides, Ulsan came from a goal down to stun Urawa Red Diamonds 2-1 in Saitama in the earlier first-leg encounter.

Jeonbuk silenced the sea of red-clad supporters in the Shanghai Stadium in the opening seconds when Moon Seon-min stole in to lift Lim Seon-yeong’s through ball over onrushing goalkeeper Yan Junling.

In a bruising encounter between the champions of China and South Korea, Shanghai SIPG’s Brazilian imports Oscar, Hulk and Elkeson created a string of chances, though Jeonbuk carried a potent threat on the break.

Hulk went close twice before the home side deservedly levelled in the 39th minute.

Right wing-back Wang Shenchao found himself in space in the center of the box as he got on the end of Yu Hai’s cross and equalized with a neat header.

Hulk rampaged through in first-half stoppage time with a chance to put SIPG in front after being fed by Elkeson’s header.

But after rounding goalkeeper Song Beom-Keun the angle was too tight and the burly striker’s shot agonizingly hit the post and rebounded to safety.

The second half was more scrappy and Jeonbuk will be the happier of the two sides after claiming a draw and an away goal ahead of the second leg in Jeonju next Wednesday.

Earlier, away goals from Joo Min-kyu and Hwang Il-su gave Ulsan a precious 2-1 win against Urawa Reds to take back to Korea for next week’s second leg.

In a battle of former Asian champions, Urawa dominated in the first half and were rewarded for their efforts when a delightfully chipped ball from Takuya Aoki in the 37th minute was met by Kenyu Sugimoto’s glancing header.

Ulsan had barely threatened till that point, but it took them just five minutes to get back on terms.

A mistake in midfield enabled the lively Lee Keun-ho to burst down the left flank and drive in a cross that was met by a powerful headed finish from Joo.

The goal lifted the visitors and the lively goal provider Lee twice went close to putting Ulsan ahead after the break.

First a rasping volley from the edge of the box flew just wide then a near-post flick found the side netting.

In the 80th minute substitute Hwang ran almost unopposed to the edge of the box before drilling home a left-foot shot for the winner.

Junior Negrao should have made it three shortly after, but somehow cleared the crossbar from close range.


Record-breaking Lukaku propelling Inter’s European dream

Updated 12 August 2020

Record-breaking Lukaku propelling Inter’s European dream

  • Inter reach their first European semifinal since 2010 when they went on to win the Champions League

MILAN: A record-breaking Romelu Lukaku is leading Inter Milan's chase for their first trophy in 9 years.

Eyebrows were raised last year when Inter shelled out a club record of around €65 million ($73 million) plus €13 million  ($15 million) in bonuses for Lukaku, who had had a disappointing final season at Manchester United.

However, Lukaku swiftly developed a scintillating partnership with Lautaro Martínez and their goals helped Inter sustain a title challenge before eventually finishing second in Serie A, a point behind Juventus.

Inter scored 81 league goals — well above the paltry 57 they managed in the previous campaign.

Lukaku scored again on Monday and set up another to help Inter beat Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 to reach the Europa League semifinals.

“Romelu has never played so well, not even in the past,” Inter coach Antonio Conte said.

The Belgian forward became the first player to find the net in nine consecutive Europa League games, surpassing the eight set by Alan Shearer for Newcastle in 2005.

Lukaku’s 31st goal of the season took him past the 30-mark for the first time in his career.

“I’ve always wanted to win, ever since I was little,” Lukaku said. “I’ve always said that I will give my all for this team.

“We’re a great team; my teammates help me a lot, otherwise I couldn’t do these things and achieve these numbers ... my teammates look for me. We’re doing well together, all of us.”

Inter reached their first European semifinal since 2010 when they went on to win the Champions League as well as Serie A and the Italian Cup to complete a historic treble.

They retained the Italian Cup the following year but have not managed to lift silverware since.

The Nerazzurri play Shakhtar Donetsk or Basel in the semifinals on Monday.

After an intense period of playing matches approximately every three days after soccer restarted following the pandemic-enforced shutdown, Conte has almost a week to prepare his players.

He will want to make sure they understand that profligacy can prove costly at this level.

Inter have often failed to kill off games in which they have  dominated, and that was again the case on Monday when they had opportunities to extend their advantage.

That allowed Leverkusen to stay in the quarterfinal despite having only two shots on target.

“We could have gone through in a more relaxed manner because, despite the fact that we never really had to dig in, the result was close,” Conte said.

“It’s difficult to be annoyed. I can only compliment the lads on their performance. As is the case after every game, we’ll analyze every situation and see where we can improve.”