Li's headed double gives SIPG winning start in Asian Champions League

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Second-half headers from Li Shenglong earned Shanghai SIPG a 2-1 comeback win over Australian champions Sydney FC as the Chinese Super League side made a winning start to their 2020 Asian Champions League campaign in Doha on Thursday.

Soccer Football - AFC Champions League - Group H - Sydney FC v Shanghai SIPG - Khalifa International Stadium, Doha, Qatar - November 19, 2020 Shanghai SIPG's Li Shenglong celebrates scoring their first goal REUTERS/Ibraheem Al Omari

Li scored twice in 16 second-half minutes to give Vitor Pereira’s side victory in their first game of the COVID-19 affected competition to pull Shanghai up into second place in the early standings in Group H.

Japan’s Yokohama F Marinos top the group with six points having already played twice while Sydney have one point from their 2-2 draw with Jeonbuk Motors earlier in the competition.

The Australians took the lead in the eighth minute when Trent Buhagiar latched on to Costa Barbarouses’ cross to fire his first-time effort into the top corner of Chen Wei’s goal.

Barbarouses missed an easier chance in the fourth minute to give Sydney the lead while captain Alex Wilkinson later went close to adding a second for Sydney when his header hit the post.

SIPG started to apply pressure as the half wore on, although it took until the second period for the Chinese side to get the goal they deserved.

Aaron Mooy was instrumental in the equaliser, the Australia midfielder curling in an inch-perfect cross from the right for Li to head home at full stretch in the 63rd minute.

SIPG took the lead when Li again netted with his head, this time meeting Yu Hai’s cross from the left.

Sydney’s hopes suffered another blow late in the game when goalkeeper Tom Heward-Belle was sent off for deliberate handball.

The centralised tournament features 15 teams from east Asia playing in a biosecure bubble in the Qatari capital to complete the 2020 edition of the continental club championship.

The remaining group matches will be played until Dec. 4, with the knockouts starting two days later. Doha will also host the final on Dec. 19, with Iranian side Persepolis having already qualified from the western region.

Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Toby Davis