Shanghai SIPG rely on Hulk and Oscar to maintain title charge as Arnautovic waits in wings

Chinese Super League Review

Vitor Pereira may whisper it to confidantes, perhaps mention it in closed company — but what he doesn’t necessarily want to declare in public is there for all to see: there is so much more to come from in-form Shanghai SIPG.

And that in itself should be of huge concern to Chinese Super League (CSL) table-toppers Beijing Guoan. They have the lead at the top of the pile but the margin with which they sit at the summit is just two points and if any team can challenge them in the race for the title it is Pereira’s men.

After seeing his charges dismantle nine-man Jiangsu Suning with a comfortable 3-0 win to keep the heat on the leaders, Pereira remained coy about the long-term goal that is undoubtedly his target — to retain the CSL crown.

Of the victory, the Shanghai SIPG coach said:

“We had a good start and after going 1-0 up quickly, our opponents got a red card and in these cases the game is very difficult. After we got a 2-0 lead our offensive and defensive organisation was messy. It was not easy to win 3-0; it’s not easy to win at Suning’s home.”

New boy Marko Arnautovic, recruited from Premier League outfit West Ham United, sat out the match with an injury and in truth, he wasn’t needed as the visitors coasted to the three points. But the Austria striker remains a potent threat and will no doubt be utilised to great effect as the title race heats up.

Shanghai SIPG relied on Samba ace Hulk to get then off the mark before Zhang Wei was on hand to double the advantage in the 18th minute. The visitors seemed to enjoy their dominance in the second-half and their patience paid off with ten minutes left when Brazilian star Oscar, the former Chelsea attacker, shot home from just outside the box.

In Shanghai SIPG’s way, of course, are Beijing Guoan, who get the chance to extend their lead at the top of the table when they face city rivals Beijing Renhe in an enticing derby clash on Wednesday (July 17). Roger Schmidt’s outfit go into the game having collected their 15th victory of the campaign last time of asking when they chalked up a 4-1 win over Chongqing Lifan.

Guoan suffered a slow start and paid the price when Alan Kardec notched early on but the nerves soon settled and just before the break sub Jin Taiyan delivered a teasing cross for Piao Cheng to time his jump perfectly to head home for 1-1. More pressure was applied after the interval and Guoan took a 2-1 lead when Renato Augusto tucked away a spot-kick. Then Jonathan Viera found the net for 3-1 soon afterwards. And Zhang Xizhe wrapped things up for what turned out to be a comfortable triumph for the league leaders.