Shanghai (AFP) – Brazilian striker Hulk returned from injury to score twice for Shanghai SIPG but the Chinese side were dumped out of the Asian Champions League 4-3 on aggregate by Kashima Antlers on Wednesday.
The Japanese became the last side to seal a spot in the quarter-finals, but they did it the hard way, losing 2-1 on a sweltering and nervy night in Shanghai.
Vitor Pereira’s Shanghai join reigning Chinese Super League (CSL) champions Guangzhou Evergrande in tumbling out of the competition at the last-16 stage.
Hulk, the 55.8 million-euro ($66 million) forward who missed the 3-1 first-leg defeat in Japan, returned to captain the hosts and needed just seven minutes to make his mark.
The striker spun sharply in the box to fire low into the net and breathe life into the Chinese side’s continental campaign, sliding on his knees and pumping his fists in celebration.
Last year’s semi-finalists had more of the ball but Kashima were a threat on the break and Mu Kanazaki might have equalised with their first chance, on 19 minutes, but his header flashed wide.
Ten minutes later, the Japanese international was again wasteful, shooting wide as Shanghai lived dangerously.
Shanghai, who top the CSL on goal difference but have stumbled of late under their Portuguese coach, did not heed the warnings.
And Kashima made them pay three minutes before half-time when Shoma Doi adroitly steered the ball in to silence the home crowd.
Shanghai, for whom 60 million-euro Brazilian Oscar was largely anonymous, went for broke in the second half.
Visiting goalkeeper Kwoun Sun-tae stood firm until Kashima conceded a penalty with 10 minutes left and Hulk just about beat Kwoun from the spot to set up a thrilling finale, the home side needing one more goal to force extra-time.
In the other tie on the night, Suwon Samsung Bluewings beat fellow South Koreans Ulsan Hyundai 3-0 at home to progress 3-1 on aggregate.
The quarter-finals take place in August and September.
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