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Late strike seals Yokohama F. Marinos AFC Champions League win against Shanghai SIPG

Doha: Yokohama F. Marinos left it late to overcome Shanghai SIPG 1-0 on Wednesday and continue their perfect start to the 2020 AFC Champions League, retaining the top spot in Group H.

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motor’s 1-0 win against Sydney FC earlier in the day eliminated the Australians but brought the Korean side closer to the two Group H leaders.

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Yokohama F. Marinos, who saw the defence of their J1 League title ended by Kawasaki Frontale earlier on Wednesday, started on the front foot and nearly took the lead inside 10 minutes when Thailand international full-back Theerathon Bunmathan shipped a cross at the far post that was met by a Daizen Maeda header at point blank, but the forward could not direct it goalward.

Chances were few and far between in the opening half hour, with Bunmathan’s crosses the main attacking outlet for the Japanese side and Shinnosuke Hatanaka getting on the end of one but heading over the crossbar from close range.

Unable to penetrate the Chinese defences, Ange Postecoglou’s men resorted to alternative solutions with Maeda going on a jinking run and cutting in from the left but his subsequent shot went high and wide.

As the first half drew to a close, Hulk took matters into his own hands, dispossessing Takuya Wada near the halfway line then embarking on a solo run and firing a powerful drive from range that goalkeeper Powell Obinna Obi could only parry away.

A quick attacking move from Yokohama F. Marinos saw the ball fed to Kota Mizunuma who cut inside on his left-foot and drilled an effort towards the near post that was saved by goalkeeper Chen Wei.

Chen was left racing to get back in position in the 57th minute as he rushed out of his box to sweep away a through pass but his cleared ball landed at the feet of Marcos Junior who attempted to lob him from 40 yards out, but his shot did not drop on time and passed over the crossbar.

Vitor Perreira’s men started taking the initiative as the second half wore on and Brazilian playmaker Oscar looked to trick the Japanese goalkeeper, curling in a free-kick from an impossible angle just after the hour mark, but his effort passed agonisingly close on the wrong side of the far post.

Shanghai SIPG had a golden opportunity to grab a late winner when substitute Ken Matsubara apprehended Mirahmetjan Muzepper inside the box, prompting the referee to point to the spot. Oscar stepped up and took the resulting penalty, but the former Chelsea midfielder was denied by a fine reflex save from Obi nine minutes from time.

The goal arrived a few minutes later, carrying the colours of Yokohama F. Marinos. Substitute Ryo Takano delivered a whipped cross from the left that was met by a thumping header from fellow substitute Teruhito Nakagawa. The attempt was pushed by goalkeeper Chen into the path of a third substitute, Jun Amano, who was left with a simple tap in to apply the finish and win it for the Japanese side.

The result means Yokohama F. Marinos move three points clear off their chasers with nine points at the top of Group H, while Shanghai SIPG freeze at six points in second place, just two points ahead of Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in third.

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