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Guangzhou Evergrande 'paid the price' for selling Paulinho - Scolari

SIPG took a step towards the AFC Champions League semifinals courtesy of an inspiring performance from Hulk.

Luiz Felipe Scolari conceded the loss of Paulinho to Barcelona, along with other key absences, was a major factor in Guangzhou Evergrande's 4-0 thrashing in the first leg of their Asian Champions league quarterfinal loss to Shanghai SIPG on Tuesday evening.

Guangzhou suffered their biggest defeat in nine years in the meeting at Shanghai Stadium, with Wu Lei scoring twice as SIPG took a massive stride towards qualifying for the semifinals of the continental championship for the first time in the club's history.

Evergrande looked a shadow of the team that has won the Asian title twice in the last five seasons, with Paulinho's drive in midfield unavailable following his 40 million euro switch to La Liga at the start of last week.

"We paid the price for the tight and intensive match schedule," said Scolari, whose side host the return leg at Tianhe Stadium on Sept. 12.

"We also paid the price for the absence of Paulinho, Huang Bowen and Mei Fang and we were playing against such a strong opponent."

Guangzhou and SIPG have been battling head-to-head for dominance at both domestic and continental level throughout the season, with Evergrande eight points clear of Andre Villas-Boas' team in the Chinese Super League but SIPG also holding a 2-1 advantage following the first leg of the Chinese FA Cup.

The win on Tuesday evening, though, will be a major blow to Guangzhou's confidence and Scolari.

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"Our biggest mistake was to give our opponent too much space, we shouldn't have," said Scolari. "We passed too much into the middle, and once our opponent claimed the ball they could immediately start to counter-attack.

"SIPG used their speed and counter-attacking tactic to increase their lead. Our biggest mistake today was giving them too much space."

Villas-Boas has seen his side struggle domestically in recent weeks after missing the chance to overtake Guangzhou at the top of the Chinese Super League before slipping off the pace with seven league games remaining.

But despite the margin of victory, which came thanks to an inspired performance from Hulk, Villas-Boas remains cautious ahead of the return meeting next month.

"We have had a very difficult time in the Chinese Super League but today we overcame lots of obstacles and had an excellent game," said the former Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur manager.

"We've been chasing Evergrande all the time. We have to keep in mind that there is the away game to go. Evergrande is a team that keeps winning games all the time."

Michael Church has written about Asian football for more than 20 years and mainly covers the Chinese game for ESPN FC. Twitter: @michaelrgchurch

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