Elkeson strikes to steer SIPG into knockout phase
By Michael Church
HONG KONG, March 13 (Reuters) - Shanghai SIPG secured their place in the last 16 of the Asian Champions League on Tuesday with a goal from Brazilian striker Elkeson sealing a 1-0 win over South Korea's Ulsan Hyundai for Vitor Pereira's team.
Last year's semi-finalists secured their place in the knockout round after Melbourne Victory's win over Japanese champions Kawasaki Frontale 1-0 in the day's other match means the Chinese Super League side cannot finish outside the top two places in Group F.
"Overall, I'm satisfied with the performance," said Pereira, whose side were outplayed in the opening 45 minutes.
"All of the players, not only those who have played today, have been fighting together and this is the team spirit we need."
Ulsan dominated the opening period before Hulk powered through the South Korean side's defence five minutes into the second half to cut the ball back for Elkeson to score from close range.
The win moves SIPG on to 10 points from four games while Ulsan remain in second on five points, level with Melbourne after their win over Kawasaki.
With a better head-to-head record over the South Koreans and with both Ulsan and Melbourne due to face each other, SIPG cannot finish any lower than second in the group.
Meanwhile, Suwon Bluewings ended Shanghai Shenhua's unbeaten start to their Asian Champions League campaign as second-half goals from Dejan Damjanovic and Choi Seong-guen earned the two-time Asian champions a 2-0 win at Hongkou Stadium.
Suwon sit on seven points, just one behind Group H leaders Kashima Antlers who were held to a 1-1 draw by Sydney FC.
In the western half of the draw, Qatar's Al Duhail maintained their perfect record with a dramatic 2-1 win over Uzbekistan's Lokomotiv Tashkent that ensured the club from Doha will advance to the last 16 from Group B.
Youssef El Arabi scored twice in stoppage time to give the Qatari champions a fourth successive win that guarantees their place in the next phase of the competition.
Iran's Zob Ahan are second in the group with six points, three ahead of Lokomotiv, after their 2-0 win over bottom side Al Wahda from the United Arab Emirates.
Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal, finalists last year, remain winless in this season's competition after a 2-1 defeat by Qatar's Al Rayyan that leaves the club from Riyadh bottom of Group E with only two points.
The standings are headed by Esteghlal of Iran, who are level on six points with Al Rayyan, after they shared a 1-1 draw with Al Ain of the UAE. (Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Christian Radnedge)