Shanghai Greenland Shenhua gained the upper hand over city rival SIPG in their two-legged Chinese FA Cup final by edging Andre Villas-Boas' team 1-0 at Hongkou Football Stadium last night, thanks to a first-half goal by Nigerian striker Obafemi Martins.
With big-spending SIPG seemingly on its way to end the season empty-handed, Villas-Boas revealed at the post-match press conference that a decision on his future has already been made, though the Portuguese did not confirm whether he would be at the club next season.
"My decision has already been taken regarding next season. It has nothing to do with the CFA Cup results," said the former Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur manager. Reports from some domestic media, including sohu.com, have suggested that Villas-Boas has already reached agreement with SIPG to continue to lead the club next year, though an official announcement is yet to be made.
At the start of the season, AVB was tasked with winning at least one of three trophies — the Chinese Super League, the AFC Champions League and the CFA Cup. SIPG finished second to defending champion Guangzhou Evergrande in the CSL while it lost in the semifinals of the ACL, leaving the CFA Cup as the only chance for glory this season.
For AVB's counterpart, Wu Jingui, the victory was the best gift on his 100th match as Shenhua head coach, and he was profuse in thanking his players for their performance.
"SIPG is a strong opponent. Therefore, our players did a lot of running and put up a great defense. However, it's only the first half of a 180-minute game, and the second half will only be harder going to SIPG's home ground," Wu told reporters.
Shenhua lost both the local derby matches to SIPG in the CSL this season. It fell 1-3 to SIPG at home in May, and then suffered a humiliating 1-6 away defeat in September — days after Wu took over from Gus Poyet as head coach.
"We made mistakes (in the 1-6 defeat), and could not afford to make any more. So today we concentrated hard on defense," said Wu. It was also the first time Shenhua had not conceded a goal to SIPG in a match since 2013.
Both teams created several chances in the opening half an hour before Martins seized his opportunity in the 38th minute, scoring in front of the goal from a pass from his China under-23 teammate Liu Ruofan.
Shenhua had a chance to double the advantage seven minutes into the second half but SIPG goalkeeper Yan Junling made a brilliant save to stop a close-range attempt by Shenhua captain Giovanni Moreno.
SIPG's top scorer Hulk had a quiet match, being marked by three to four Shenhua players whenever he had the ball.
"We had a lot of ball possession, but Shenhua defended well," Villas-Boas commented on the match. "We did not play well. But the players tried everything, so I can't point fingers at them. There is still a great chance for us in the second leg considering our performance against Shenhua in the CSL."
The second leg will be staged at Shanghai Stadium in exactly one week's time.