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Hulk hits cracker in AFC semi-final stalemate

Shanghai (AFP) – Brazilian striker Hulk hit his ninth goal in the Asian Champions League this season but Shanghai SIPG failed to take their chances in a 1-1 semi-final stalemate with Urawa Red Diamonds on Wednesday.

Andre Villas-Boas’ side will travel to Japan for the second leg on October 18 still very much in the tie, but they could easily have been out of sight.

As has been the case so many times this season, the burly Hulk was Shanghai’s major threat, while former Chelsea star Oscar struck a post.

The hosts wasted the first chance of the game when Hulk and fellow Brazilian forward Elkeson got in each another’s way in slapstick fashion in the 10th minute.

Five minutes later it was 1-0 and again Hulk — leading scorer in the Champions League — was on the scoresheet, blasting the ball into the bottom corner from outside the box.

Shanghai, who are pushing for a domestic and continental treble, then went close through Elkeson as they dominated.

But the Chinese often look suspect in defence and missing two from their regular backline and their number one goalkeeper, all suspended, they allowed Urawa to equalise with their first opportunity on 28 minutes. 

Yosuke Kashiwagi did the damage, nipping in first time on the half-volley to stun the majority of the more than 30,000 at Shanghai Stadium. 

If the hosts were shaky at the back, so too were the visitors, who were playing in their away strip of marker-pen fluorescent yellow.

Oscar, Shanghai’s Asian-record 60-million-euro Brazilian, had two decent chances just before the break as SIPG cranked up the pressure.

The second period began as the first ended, Shanghai enjoying the possession and chances but Urawa threatening sporadically on the break.

Oscar’s nearly night was summed up on 68 minutes when his free-kick bounced off a post.

In the other semi-final, on Tuesday, Saudi giants Al Hilal took a giant step towards the final with a 4-0 thrashing of Iran’s Persepolis.

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