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Analysis: A Game of two halves in Shanghai

Friday, August 30, 2019

Kuala Lumpur: Shanghai SIPG and Urawa Red Diamonds shared a 2-2 stalemate on Tuesday in their AFC Champions League quarter-final first leg in China PR.

Two away goals but a 2-0 lead conceded ensures neither Urawa nor Shanghai SIPG will feel completely content after an intriguing first leg at Shanghai Stadium.

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Fortress Shanghai

After the dust settled on Tuesday following the rollercoaster 2-2 draw, Shanghai SIPG marked their 20th home match unbeaten in the AFC Champions League; a run that begun at the 2016 edition when they made their debut on the Continent.

The club has reached the Knockout Stage in all four campaigns so far but their away form has seen them slip up at the quarter-final, semi-final and Round of 16 stages respectively.

At home, whatever the scenario, they've been able to raise their game when needed.

On Tuesday, a 2-0 goal deficit at half-time looked to bring an end to their proud home record, but the Chinese Super League side roared back to wrest back momentum and level up the tie.

In the first 45 minutes, the home side barely had an effort on goal, but by switching their attack down the left flank after the interval, with Oscar cutting inside, Shanghai SIPG found more joy and Hulk's two penalties takes them to Japan with the scoreline level.

Nagasawa shines again

Following his move from JEF United Chiba ahead of the 2017 season, Urawa midfielder Kazuki Nagasawa endured a tough year on the domestic front. Just eight appearances in the J.League that year would have been disappointing for the former FC Köln man, but for his success on the Continent.

In the 2017 AFC Champions League, Nagasawa was a stand-out; taking to the physical nature of the contests and playing a big role in Urawa's successful run to their second title. As a result, he has seen more game-time with the Saitama side in the J.League and, after Urawa missed out on the 2018 AFC Champions League, relished his return to Asia this year.

Against Shanghai SIPG, in particular, Nagasawa's performance was note-worthy.

It was from his free-kick that Tomoaki Makino opened the scoring in dramatic early fashion with the defender praising the delivery from his teammate. And better was yet to come with his splendid pass for Shinzo Koroki's strike on the half-hour mark.

Indeed, by himself, Nagasawa created the same number of chances (5) as the entire Shanghai SIPG team and his fine performance was reflected in his impressive statistics: 92% Passing Accuracy, 64 touches and 10 successful passes in final third – all among the leading figures for the visitors.

Under the radar Ahmedov impresses

In a team that boasts foreign stars Hulk, Oscar and Marko Arnautovic there can be a tendency for some to overlook Shanghai SIPG's fourth overseas player: Uzbekistan's Odil Ahmedov.

The 31-year-old joined Shanghai SIPG ahead of the 2017 season and has proved to be an astute signing. Against Urawa on Tuesday, he more than held his own among the bigger names on the field.

Predominantly sitting further back than his celebrated trio of teammates, Ahmedov created more chances and boasted a higher passing accuracy – of all 22 who started only Urawa's Takuya Aoki could better Ahmedov's 95% – than any of the three, while only Oscar could match him for duels won and dribbles completed.

The all-action midfielder's efforts were important to Shanghai SIPG's comeback in the second half as the hosts took command of the tie and Ahmedov will play a key role in three weeks' time, especially with Hulk suspended, for the visit to Saitama.

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