Shanghai SIPG win first CSL title
Shanghai: Shanghai SIPG broke Guangzhou Evergrande's near-decade stranglehold on Chinese football on Wednesday, winning the Chinese Super League (CSL) for the first time.
SIPG, who have the Brazilian duo of Oscar and Hulk, wrapped up their first major title title since their founding in 2005 with a game to spare thanks to a 2-1 victory over Beijing Renhe.
SIPG head coach Vitor Pereira, a former Porto coach last seen taking 1860 Munich into Germany’s third tier, praised the spirit of his side.
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"We broke seven years of titles of Guangzhou and this is a big issue, a big challenge, and we won the challenge," the Portuguese said, his winners' medal slung around his neck.
"(In my) first year in China. For my career, it is good for me, I am very happy.
"I hope next season we will be here again to fight for another title."
On a wet night at Shanghai Stadium, Uzbek international Odil Akhmedov put the champions-elect ahead in the 20th minute with a sumptuous curling effort from outside the box.
Prolific Chinese international Wu Lei made it 2-0 just after half-time, only for Senegalese striker Makhete Diop to hit back for the visitors.
The pivotal moment in the season came on Saturday, when Pereira's side triumphed 5-4 at Fabio Cannavaro’s Guangzhou in what was effectively a title-decider.
Forward Wu was arguably the standout performer over the last eight months, however, topping the CSL scoring charts with 27 goals, including his deflected strike against Beijing.
Winning the title justifies SIPG's decision to hire Pereira after his fellow Portuguese Andres Villas-Boas quit following a turbulent 2016-2017 campaign during which the former Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur manager failed to lift a trophy.
"I have to thank my club because they put their trust in us and they deserved this title," he said.
"My players did fantastic work and a fantastic season."
Evergrande will finish second and qualify - along with SIPG - for the 2019 AFC Champions League.
The final round of matches is on Sunday.
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