Hulk double saves ‘lost’ Shanghai in Champions League quarters

Hulk was a €55.8m capture from Zenit St. Petersburg three years ago. (AFP)
Updated 27 August 2019

Hulk double saves ‘lost’ Shanghai in Champions League quarters

  • The 33-year-old Hulk held his nerve twice in the second half from the spot

SHANGHAI: Brazilian striker Hulk scored twice from the penalty spot to rescue Shanghai SIPG in a 2-2 stalemate against Urawa Reds in the AFC Champions League quarter-finals on Tuesday.
J-League side Urawa will go into the home second leg as slight favorites on the away-goals rule, but it could have been so much better after they led 2-0 at the break.
The 33-year-old Hulk held his nerve twice in the second half from the spot to keep Vitor Pereira’s Chinese champions alive in the tie.
Pereira felt that his side, boasting expensively assembled attacking players Hulk, Oscar and Marko Arnautovic, could have gone on to win the game.
“At half-time we were maybe out of the competition,” said the Portuguese.
“But now everything is possible.
“In the first half the team looked lost, lost on the pitch and without confidence,” he added.
“We suffered a bit, but the reaction in the second half gave us hope to win the game.”
Shanghai’s Chinese international goalkeeper Yan Junling was badly at fault for the opener as Urawa threatened to go goal-crazy at a stunned Shanghai Stadium.
On only three minutes he flapped at a high ball, dropping it at the feet of Tomoaki Makino, who swivelled to fire into an empty net.
The home side complained bitterly but Yan was culpable, spilling the ball under negligible pressure from Makino.
On 30 minutes the visitors, two-time Asian champions, stretched their lead when Shinzo Koroki ran through on goal and slotted under Yan, who again might have done better.
Shanghai’s record of never losing in the Champions League at home in 19 matches was in serious danger.
Boos rang out at half-time in the direction of referee Mohammed Abdulla Hassan of the United Arab Emirates, the home crowd feeling that Yan was fouled for the opener.
Arnautovic, signed from West Ham United during the summer, was making his Asian Champions League debut, but the Austrian striker was subdued throughout.
Shanghai, whose domestic league defense is faltering after racking up too many draws, emerged for the second half with intent and scored on 49 minutes.
Oscar, an Asian-record €60m capture from Chelsea in 2017, took on several Urawa players before he was felled in the box.
It looked harsh on the visitors, with Oscar appearing to leave his leg in to win the penalty.
His fellow Brazilian Hulk, a €55.8m capture from Zenit St. Petersburg three years ago, smacked in the spot-kick and Urawa were reeling.
On 71 minutes it was 2-2 thanks to another unerring Hulk penalty after Brazilian defender Antonio Mauricio inadvertently blocked a goal-bound shot with his arm.
The second leg is on September 17.


The NBA MVP finalists: Antetokounmpo, James and Harden

Updated 09 August 2020

The NBA MVP finalists: Antetokounmpo, James and Harden

  • James would join Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (a six-time winner), Michael Jordan and Bill Russell as the NBA’s only five-time MVPs
  • Antetokounmpo is bidding to become the 12th back-to-back winner of the award

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida: This season’s NBA MVP has won the award before.
A trio of past winners of the award — reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, four-time MVP LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers and 2017-18 winner James Harden of the Houston Rockets — were announced Saturday as the finalists for this season’s top NBA individual honor.
James would join Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (a six-time winner), Michael Jordan and Bill Russell as the NBA’s only five-time MVPs. Antetokounmpo is bidding to become the 12th back-to-back winner of the award, and Harden is vying for his second MVP in three seasons.
“He’s an incredible teammate, plays unselfishly, does everything,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said of Antetokounmpo last month, stating his best player’s MVP case. “And I think that’s kind of what the MVP is, so we certainly feel like he’s very deserving and we’ll be excited to support him.”
Antetokounmpo is also a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year, while Utah’s Rudy Gobert is bidding to win that trophy for a third consecutive season.
The league announced the top three vote-getters in six individual categories. Voting has already taken place by a global panel of sportswriters and broadcasters.
The NBA has not set specific dates when the winners will be announced.
None of the games taking place at the NBA’s restart at Walt Disney World factored into the voting, because ballots were due before games began again July 30.
The league took the step of saying games played before the league suspended the season on March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic could factor into award consideration, out of fairness to the eight teams that were not invited to the restart.
The other finalists for NBA honors:
Rookie of the Year — Ja Morant, Memphis; Kendrick Nunn, Miami; Zion Williamson, New Orleans.
Most Improved Player — Bam Adebayo, Miami; Luka Doncic, Dallas; Brandon Ingram, New Orleans.
Sixth Man — Montrezl Harrell, Los Angeles Clippers; Dennis Schroder, Oklahoma City; Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers.
Defensive Player of the Year — Antetokounmpo; Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers; Rudy Gobert, Utah.
Coach of the Year — Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee; Billy Donovan, Oklahoma City; Nick Nurse, Toronto.


GASOL VS. GRIZZLIES
Marc Gasol spent parts of 11 seasons in Memphis, going to three All-Star Games with a Grizzlies jersey on his back, earning two All-NBA selections there and a Defensive Player of the Year award as well.
And now, he’ll play against his former team for the first time.
The Grizzlies face Gasol and the Toronto Raptors on Sunday. It’ll be the first game between the clubs since Gasol was traded to Toronto in February 2019 — a move that helped the Raptors win last season’s NBA championship.
Gasol said facing Memphis would be emotional.
“I got there when I was 16 years old. It was my first time out of Spain,” said Gasol, who still owns his Memphis home. “I started high school there as a teenager and left as a father of two kids. ... My ties to the city and my roots go pretty deep and my love for the people there, what they mean and the franchise, it’s forever.”
Gasol helped Memphis make the playoffs in seven consecutive seasons including the 2013 run to the Western Conference finals. He is the Grizzlies’ all-time leader for minutes played, field goals made, free throws made and attempted, rebounds, blocks and triple-doubles and is second in points — 49 behind Mike Conley.
The Raptors were supposed to have played back-to-back games against Memphis this season, going there March 28 and then playing host to the Grizzlies March 30. Those games, of course, were called off because of the season suspension caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Obviously it’s a little bittersweet that we couldn’t play in the city of Memphis, to get that love and feel that Iove from the fans,” Raptors guard Fred VanVleet said. “But I’m sure he’ll be happy to see some familiar faces and a lot of the people that he spent a lot of time with over the years.”


WORKING WIZARDS
On Friday, the Washington Wizards were eliminated from playoff contention.
On Saturday, they practiced.
The Wizards knew they were playoff longshots even before coming to the NBA’s restart at Disney, especially since Bradley Beal didn’t make the trip because of injury and Davis Bertans opted not to play because of health concerns.
But these eight games — Washington is 0-5 at Disney with three games left — were considered learning opportunities for the team’s young players, and a chance to get some high-level work in before the offseason starts. And just because the playoff chances are now gone doesn’t mean Wizards coach Scott Brooks is changing his thinking on that front.
“It’s about getting better,” Brooks said. “You know, I love our group. We want to keep improving. And the record, I’m not happy with it but I’m happy with our effort after every game that we’ve been in.”
Brooks has told his team repeatedly at Disney that the losses go on his record, not theirs.
“You can’t waste the days, you have to keep working on each day and keep improving and it’s hard,” Brooks said. “It’s hard to go through, you know, five losses in a row. But in order to get where we need to get to, you’re going to have to deal with it. You’re going to have to be able to handle it. You’re going to have to be able to get better from it, and it also has to hurt, going through it. And that’s fine.”


BUCKS CLINCH
The road to the NBA championship will go through Milwaukee’s white uniforms.
The Bucks have secured the top overall seed in the NBA playoffs for the second consecutive year, the clincher coming when the Los Angeles Lakers lost to Indiana on Saturday.
Ordinarily, that would come with the right to host Game 1 and Game 7 of every series. This year, it just means that the Bucks will be called the home team in those games in each postseason round that they reach.