A master-class from Hulk helped Shanghai SIPG to an emphatic 4-0 first leg quarterfinal win over Guangzhou Evergrande on Tuesday night, within sight of the last four of the 2017 AFC Champions League.
The Brazilian scored one and made two in this all-Chinese affair in Shanghai, as former Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas looks to take the team into the semifinals of the continental competition for the first time in their history.
Guangzhou are 2013 and 2015 Asian title-winners and were missing influential midfielder Paulinho, who was sold to Barcelona last week. The result leaves them with a mountain to climb in September's second leg.
While Guangzhou moved eight points clear of Shanghai in the Chinese Super League last weekend to stay on course for a seventh successive domestic championship, Luiz Felipe Scolari's men were second best almost from the kick off.
After Ricardo Goulart had an early chance to put Guangzhou ahead only to shoot straight at Yan Junling, Shanghai soon began to pile on the pressure, creating a number of chances. Lu Wenjun had the first clear sight of goal, latching on to a fine Hulk through ball to race clear of the visiting defence, only to see his low shot saved by Zeng Cheng.
Oscar, busy in Shanghai's midfield, had a shot blocked by the goalkeeper soon afterwards. But the deadlock was broken eight minutes before the break with a penalty that was as clear as the home team's superiority.
Zhang Linpeng brought down Wu Lei in the area. Hulk stepped up to fire an unstoppable shot past the goalkeeper.
Guangzhou immediately pushed forward looking for the leveller but were caught inside first-half injury time.
Hulk turned provider with a high, looping cross from near the left corner flag. It was met at the far post by the unmarked Wang to direct a header downward past Zeng.
Guangzhou tried to hit back in the second half, and in the first 10 minutes enjoyed their best spell of the game. First, substitute Wang Shangyuan forced a good save from Yan Junling and then Goulart headed just wide. Another goal was coming, but it came from Shanghai just after the hour.
Wu Lei was freed down the middle, and fired a fierce shot from the edge of the area that Zeng could have done better with.
Moments later, Shanghai broke from inside their own box. Hulk carried the ball into the opposition area. He found Wu Lei, who rolled the ball past the goalkeeper, and into the net to send the home fans. Villas-Boas, clad in shorts on the sidelines, went wild with delight.
Guangzhou searched in desperation for a goal to give them second leg hope, but were unable to find anything. It could have been much worse had former striker Elkeson scored a fifth late in the game.
As it is, Scolari and his men need a miracle in next month's second leg if they are to have a chance of meeting either Urawa Reds or Kawasaki Frontale of Japan in the semifinals.