Shanghai Shenhua took an important step towards the 2020 AFC Champions League Round of 16, defeating FC Tokyo 1-0 thanks to a Yu Hanchao penalty at Education City Stadium yesterday.
The veteran Chinese international converted in the 71st minute, giving Shenhua the maximum reward for a determined defensive performance which saw them leapfrog their opponents in the Group F standings.
Choi Kang-hee’s men now have six points from three matches, while FC Tokyo remain on four, with the teams to meet again at the same venue on Friday.
In a first half featuring more physicality than finesse, it took less than 30 seconds for the first yellow card to be brandished, and more than 30 minutes for either side to conjure a shot on target, but it was FC Tokyo who enjoyed the stronger start.
Appearing in Doha for the first time in the competition, the Japanese side held the lion’s share of territory and possession for most of the early running although it rarely translated into a scoring chance, with Stephane M’Bia and Feng Xiaoting marshalling a disciplined Shenhua defence.
Shenhua issued a brief reminder of their own qualities when the in-form Yu Hanchao sent a looping header narrowly high and wide, but the closest either side came was a flying, improvised volley from Tokyo’s Diego Oliveira, which Li Shaui did well to keep out in the 39th minute.
Shenhua produced their best move of the match to that point early in the first half, with a wonderfully cushioned header from the newly introduced Zhu Jiangrong putting Qiang Jigei through on goal, only for the ball to end up in the side netting after Qiang had battled his
way around goalkeeper Go Hatano.
The introduction of Adailton added some spice to the Tokyo front line just after the hour mark, but any inroads for the Japanese side were abruptly halted when Shenhua were awarded a penalty in the 71st minute, with Hotaka Nakamura penalised for a clumsy foul on Yu.
A goal scorer and Player of the Match against Perth Glory on Wednesday, Yu confidently dispatched the spot-kick, giving Choi Kang-hee’s side a precious lead with under 20 minutes remaining.
It appeared it simply wasn’t FC Tokyo’s day when Diego Oliveira spooned a free header over the crossbar from barely six yards, and Shenhua duly held firm to claim a win which significantly boosts their chances of playing in the Round of 16.
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