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Rare loss won't rattle SIPG
Last Updated: 2018-04-20 09:18 | China Daily
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Despite watching his side lose for the first time this year on Wednesday, Shanghai SIPG coach Vitor Pereira is upbeat about his club's chances ahead of a blockbuster clash with Japan's Kashima Antlers in the knockout phase of the Asian Champions League.

A weakened SIPG lost 2-1 to Melbourne Victory in its final Group F game but the result was academic since the Chinese Super League leader had already secured top spot to set up a last-16 meeting with the eight-time J-League champion.

The loss was SIPG's first of 2018 after six straight league wins plus three wins and two draws in the Asian Champions League, but it failed to diminish Pereira's faith in his squad.

"I'm always quite confident no matter who we are due to play next," said the Portuguese, who took over from Andre Villas Boas at the end of last season.

"We are always confident. I'm satisfied with our young players. They are able to grow through matches like this and it is normal sometimes to lose."

All-China clash

SIPG, which left key players Oscar, Odil Ahmedov and Wu Lei out of the lineup for the match in Australia while Hulk started on the bench, meets Kashima in the round of 16 over two legs, with the first game on May 9 and the return match a week later in China.

The Shanghai club has been joined in the next phase by Tianjin Quanjian, which confirmed it would finish second in Group E with a 3-2 win over Kashiwa Reysol that sets up an all-China clash with two-time champion Guangzhou Evergrande.

Jeonbuk Motors from South Korea topped Group E thanks to a 3-0 win over Hong Kong's Kitchee, which saw Kim Shin-wook score his fourth goal of the campaign. The 2016 champion will now meet Thailand's Buriram United.

Jeonbuk is one of three Korean teams in the knockout rounds after Ulsan Hyundai confirmed it would face compatriot Suwon Bluewings by coming back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with already-eliminated Kawasaki Frontale.

The first legs of the last 16 matches will be played May 7-9, with the return games from May 14-16.

Reuters

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