Shanghai SIPG, Persepolis through to AFC semis


Guangzhou -Shanghai SIPG survived an almighty scare to sneak into the semi-finals of the AFC Champions League 5-4 on penalties and break Guangzhou Evergrande hearts on Tuesday.

Joining the Chinese side in the last four were Persepolis of Iran who benefited from two late penalties to oust Saudi Arabia's Al Ahli 5-3 on aggregate after a 3-1 win in Abu Dhabi.

In Guangzhou, midfielder Yu Hai was the hero for Andre Villas-Boas's Shanghai SIPG, holding his nerve to bury the decisive spot-kick. 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 quarter-final tie ending 5-5 on aggregate.

The Brazilian Ricardo Goulart scored a hat-trick for Evergrande, forcing extra time with his second and then making it 5-5 on aggregate on 118 minutes.

But it was he who missed Evergrande's penalty in the shootout, hitting the post, 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 and they finished the game with nine men.

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, Wang Shenchao was sent off 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 of normal time, punishing some slapstick SIPG defending to give Evergrande a glimmer of hope on 21 minutes when he rounded Yan Junling, who was a bundle of nerves throughout.

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 half time.

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.

It is a first Champions League semi-final for Shanghai SIPG in their short history.

Later on neutral ground in Abu Dhabi, Godwin Mensha and Mehdi Taremi both scored from the spot to put Persepolis in the last four at the expense of Al Ahli.

After a 2-2 draw in the first leg, the match appeared headed into extra time when Saleh al-Jamaan equalised for Al Ahli in the 53rd minute after Ali Alipour had put the Iranians ahead with a fifth-minute strike from a Mohsen Mosalman assist.

But Motaz Hawsawi committed the blunder of handling in the penalty area and Nigerian Mensha made no mistake from the spot in the 83rd minute to give Persepolis the advantage.

Hawsawi was red-cared for his troubles but Al Ahli didn't seem to learn from the mistake as Ali al-Asmari conceded another penalty in injury time for a foul on Bashar Rasan.

Taremi converted the penalty to put the result beyond doubt. — AFP