Sports News

Shenhua make winning start as Asian Champions League returns

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Chinese Super League side Shanghai Shenhua made a winning start to their Asian Champions League campaign on Wednesday with a 2-1 victory over Australia’s Perth Glory as action resumed in the eastern half of the continental club championship in Doha.

Peng Xinli put Shanghai in front with only seven minutes on the clock when he finished off a flowing move down the left wing before shooting across goalkeeper Tando Velaphi.

Yu Hanchao doubled the advantage seven minutes before the break. Although Jonathan Aspropotamitis reduced the deficit in the 81st minute, Shanghai held on.

Shenhua were making their first appearance in this year’s competition after all of their games were postponed due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic meaning Chinese teams were unable to play outside their homeland.

The win for the team led by Choi Kang-hee, a two-time Asian Champions League winner with South Korean side Jeonbuk Motors, gave Shanghai three points and moves them up to second place in Group F behind leaders FC Tokyo.

The Japanese club sit on four points, having played two of their fixtures earlier in the year.

Fifteen teams from the east of the continent have converged on the Qatari capital to play out what remains of the competition after COVID-19 pandemic halted proceedings in March.

At stake is a place in the final against Iran’s Persepolis, who qualified for the decider for the second time in three years after coming through the western zone’s equivalent centralised competition – also played in Doha – in September and October.

Organisers will be hoping to avoid the issues that affected those matches, when defending champions Al Hilal were unable to complete their fixtures after infections left the club with only 11 fit players, two of them goalkeepers.

As a result, health protocols have been tightened by the Qatari authorities.

The tournament is also an opportunity for the hosts to showcase three of the venues – Education City Stadium, Khalifa International Stadium and Al Janoub Stadium – that will be used when the country holds the World Cup finals in 2022.

With broadcasting requirements meaning matches during the Asian Champions League must be played during the afternoon because of time differences, Qatar will be able to display the effectiveness of its much-vaunted stadium cooling technology.

Sydney FC face Shanghai SIPG in Group H on Thursday before the competition picks up at the weekend with a further four matches.

Group games are due to be played until Dec. 4, with the knockout rounds – also to be played in Qatar – starting two days later with the final held on Dec. 19.

Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Christian Radnedge