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Shanghai Shenhua’s Choi hails ‘100 percent’ effort in AFC Champions League win

Doha: Choi Kang-hee heaped praise on his Shanghai Shenhua side’s commitment to the cause after they sealed a first-up 2-1 AFC Champions League group stage win against Perth Glory on Wednesday.

With some of their biggest names unavailable, the Chinese club scored twice before half-time before surviving a late Perth surge to secure their first win in their 2020 campaign, and their first in the competition since 2009.

But while it was Shenhua’s blistering start which secured them the points, two-time AFC Champions League winner Choi was also pleased with the way his charges saw out the game, played four days after their arrival in the Qatari capital.

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“We all know the first game of any tournament is the most difficult one,” said the former Korea Republic national team boss.

“We just arrived in Doha. Our physical condition and the recovery of the players is very difficult, but today our boys gave 100 per cent effort to the last minute and I thank them for it.

“Now that we’ve got the first victory, we need to get ready for the games against Ulsan and FC Tokyo.”

Group F - MD1: Perth Glory 1-2 Shanghai Shenhua FC

With Givonanni Moreno and Kim Shin-wook injured, and Stephan El Shaarawy, Fidel Martinez and Miller Bolańos unable to be squeezed into their squad, Shenhua’s pre-match selection woes were well documented, but it was Perth who fielded a line-up packed with new faces.

The Australian side handed starts to teenagers Bryce Bafford and Joshua Rawlins, as well as several other youngsters, with much of the attacking responsibility placed on the shoulders of imports Bruno Fornaroli and Diego Castro.

Choi acknowledged Perth’s selection surprises added a layer of difficulty in preparing for the match but declared Shenhua’s ability to limit the impact of Perth’s more established players had a major impact on the result.

“There were still four experienced players among their attackers, especially (Fornaroli) and (Castro), who are their extraordinary players,” he said.

“The successful marking on them was the key factor of our victory today.”

The first step on the road to the knockout stage has been successfully navigated, but there is little time for Shanghai Shenhua to rest.

Wednesday’s match was the first of six in 16 days for the Chinese side, and Choi admits he will need to call on every bit of his two decades of experience to keep his side competitive throughout the competition.

“As the head coach, and also for the players, this fixture list is very difficult for us,” he declared.

“Against different opponents we need to make rotations (with our squad) for each fixture, but also, we need to choose the correct tactic against each opponent.”

While his side walked away from the clash having suffered defeat, Perth Glory coach Cristian Ola was satisfied with his young side’s effort, finding room for optimism in a performance which pushed the reigning CFA Cup winners all the way to the final whistle.

“I think we took a lot of positives from this game, especially the second half. We’ve been very competitive,” said Ola, who is part of a coaching team led by former Socceroo Richard Garcia.

“A number of youngsters, who were exposed for the first time at such a level, did quite well, so really there a number of positives we can look forward to for the rest of the tournament with.

“We didn’t have many matches; we didn’t have any matches actually. This was the first competitive, official game we’ve played in quite a long while. We’ll take the positives and build up (the players’) confidence. Definitely, there are a number of things to be done better, to be analysed, to be improved, but a lot of positives against such pressure against a very strong and competitive opponent."

A disappointing aspect of Perth’s defeat was the mistake committed by goalkeeper Tando Velaphi for Shanghai Shenhua’s second goal, with the Glory shot-stopper failing to keep out a tame effort from Player of the Match Yu Hanchao.

Ola revealed regular number Liam Reddy is expected to return for thei next match against Ulsan Hyundai, but refused to blame Velaphi for the defeat.

“If you simplify everything to the result, it’s a goalkeeper mistake and, unfortunately, because of that - and the other mistakes we made - we’ve lost the game,” said Ola.

“In terms of the process, I think there are elements that are actually very good lessons for us for the future, and I think we’re looking a bit more on that side.

“There was a goalkeeping mistake, but that was not the only mistake. Every player makes mistakes throughout the game.”

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