By James Agberebi: Nigeria striker Obafemi Martins says winning the Chinese FA Cup with Shanghai Shenhua in 2017 remains one of the most memorable moments in his football career.
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Martins was instrumental in Shenhua winning their first FA Cup trophy since 1998.
The former Inter Milan star scored a goal each in the two legs of the final against Shanghai SIPG. He scored the only goal in the 1-0 first-leg win and was on target again in the 3-2 loss in the reverse fixture.
Speaking ahead of Shenhua’s Asian Champions League home group clash against South Korea’s Suwon Samsung Bluewings on Tuesday, he said the FA Cup win was even sweeter after doing it against a strong team.
“The FA Cup is a beautiful memory to me, not only because I scored in both legs, but also because we defeated a very tough opponent with our team effort when nobody believed we could win the title,” Martins was quoted on the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) official website.
“Winning the FA Cup brought us some confidence and taught us that anything can happen as long as we prepare well. For any player, it is an unforgettable memory to score in finals, especially against stronger opponents.
“The differences between the two finals is that in England it is a one-legged match but the FA Cup in China is over two legs, which makes it harder to win the title.”
Ahead of the AFC Champions League clash against Suwon Samsung Bluewings, Martins admitted Shenhua are in a difficult group after so far drawing all their three Group H games.
Shenhua drew 1-1 against Suwon Samsung Bluewings last week which came on the back of a 1-1 draw with Kashima Antlers in their first game of the campaign and a 2-2 tie with Sydney FC on Matchday Two. Shenhua are four points adrift of group leaders Kashima and one behind Suwon Samsung Bluewings.
He said: “It’s very hard to predict this group. As I said before, every opponent is very strong and it may be the toughest group in the competition because we are all quite close to each other,” admitted Martins.
“Suwon are one of the best teams in the K League and the results of these matches against them might impact if we can get through from the group stage (to the last 16).
“I was very happy to score my first ACL goal on Matchday Two, although it was a pity we didn’t win the match. With better defending I think we could have.”
And on his time with Shenhua since joining them three years ago, Martins added: “Although I’m 33, I feel my physical condition is good. I have been in so many countries and the only thing that never changes is my passion for football.
“This is my third season at Shanghai Shenhua and I hope I can help the team get some good results with my efforts.
“I love Shanghai very much. It is an international city and people are friendly. You can find food from all over the world and I have made new friends here. I enjoy my life in Shanghai.”