When you fork out budget-busting wages to recruit world class players, you would expect to be in or around the title when it came to the crunch at the end of a season. And so, it was the case for Shanghai SIPG as they saw their investment in players such as the Brazilian trio of Hulk, Oscar and Elkeson pay off handsomely with the capture off the Chinese Super League (CSL) title.
The crown is the first attained by Shanghai SIPG (also known as Shanghai East Asia) and the influence of the Samba stars is evident; between them the South American aces chipped in with no less than 32 goals and contributed 34 assists. The title was confirmed when they overcame Beijing Renhe 2-1 at home in what was the 29th CSL round, five points ahead of Guangzhou Evergrande, who finished in second spot. By the time the champions lost 3-2 yesterday to Tianjin Quanjian is was all a bit immaterial.
The snaring of the silverware put an end to the domination of Guangzhou Evergrande after they had successfully grabbed the title for the past seven years. But the CSL powerhouse didn’t go out without a fight. The defending champions hit a season record of 82 goals with a 5-1 mauling of Tianjin Teda but not before their opponents had the audacity to break the deadlock. It was a move for which they were severely punished.
Despite the obvious impact the Brazilians had on the triumph, Shanghai SIPG head coach Vitor Pereira was quick to embrace the collective and spoke of a team effort as well as an ambition to retain the title. He said:
“All members of the club put in so much effort this season. We experienced so much, and we did it. We will fight to defend the championship next season.”
From one end of the table to the other, and former Barcelona and Real Madrid midfield ace Bernd Schuster (he also managed the Catalan giants) will consider fending off relegation as boss of Dalian Yifang as a success this season, given that he was in charge of a team that had only been promoted to the top flight the season before. But they left it late did Dalian Yifang; they avoided the drop by beating Changchun Yatai 2-0 in the last game of the season.
It was Belgium star Yannick Carrasco who nabbed the all-important second goal after Colombian attacker Duvier Riascos found the net with a header in the first half. Meanwhile, Jordi Cruyff — son of legendary Dutch forward Johan — must have been crossing his fingers anticipating a bit of luck and for him it worked as his side Chongqing were defeated 1-0 at Guizhou but managed to survive the dreaded drop by coming 13th out of the 16 teams.