Shanghai: Andre Villas-Boas was full of praise for his potent attacking duo of Hulk and Wu Lei ahead of Shanghai SIPG’s 2017 AFC Champions League semi-final first leg against Urawa Red Diamonds on Wednesday.
The pair have struck 13 goals between them in this year’s competition, as well as being a constant thorn in the side of opponents with their direct, incisive play.
For Villas-Boas, their contributions have epitomised the style of his team.
“Both of them have been fantastic playing from the wings and coming inside and giving us good, flowing, attacking football,” he said.
“I think for Wu Lei it has been an amazing season – I think the highest scoring season so far for him. The team have really helped him to reach this achievement and I have been happy with both of them.”
SIPG booked their place in the semi-finals with a dramatic win over 2013 and 2015 AFC Champions League winners Guangzhou Evergrande in the last round – winning on penalties after a 5-5 draw on aggregate.
“We’ve come a long way to be in this position and we hope we are able to continue showing our strength in this competition; knowing that when you reach this stage anything can happen because motivation plays a big, big part.”
The Portuguese is pleased to be doing battle again with Urawa – who SIPG faced in Group F, winning 3-2 at home and losing 1-0 away – but expressed disappointment at not being able to lock horns again with Mihailo Petrovic, who was fired as Urawa coach at the end of July.
“The head coach now of Urawa has a lot of things from the old coach – of course the system is different but the organisation is more or less the same. The football they played under Mr. Petrovic was excellent, a really attacking style and football that I really appreciated. For me, sincerely, on a personal note without any sort of critique, it’s a pity he’s not here to play in this ‘eastern’ final against SIPG.
“As soon as Urawa qualified against Kawasaki I texted Mr. Petrovic, because when we played against each other we had a brief conversation where we spoke about how it would be so good if both teams could reach the end of this competition, and it happened – unfortunately without him.”
Photos: Lagardère Sports