Shanghai Shenhua’s Obafemi Martins scored from close range to earn them a narrow 1-0 win over local rivals Shanghai SIPG in the first leg of the Chinese FA Cup final on Sunday.
The former Nigeria striker tapped in from four metres after Liu Ruofan’s cut back in the 38th minute to give Shenhua the advantage in the tie as they bid to end a difficult season with success in the country’s premier knockout competition.
Both teams meet again at Shanghai Stadium with Shenhua, who finished 11th in the league this season, aiming to win the Chinese FA Cup for the first time since 1998.
“The game went as we expected,” said Shenhua coach Wu Jingui. “SIPG were very aggressive and they had a lot of power in midfield and attack.
“We could only fight by running more, defending endlessly and having the spirit to give everything to achieve such a good result.”
The Chinese FA Cup is the last chance for SIPG’s Portuguese coach Andre Villas-Boas and his expensively-assembled team to secure a trophy this season after they finished runners-up to Guangzhou Evergrande in the Chinese Super League.
They also exited the Asian Champions League at the semi-final stage.
Villas-Boas’ team went closest to securing an away goal 16 minutes from fulltime when Wei Shihao hit the outside of the post with a diving header.
“It was a very difficult game,” said the former Chelsea manager. “We had more possession but Shenhua defended well.
“In the second half we tried hard to get through their back line, but they managed to block us. Our players gave everything and there was no one to blame.”
The teams meet in the second leg on November 26.