Hebei CFFC miss out on ACL spot as Tianjin Quanjin finish third
Hebei CFFC failed to clinch qualification for the AFC Champions League on Saturday as their 5-4 loss to Shandong Luneng allowed Tianjin Quanjin to finish third in the Chinese Super League.
Victory would have ensured that Manuel Pellegrini's Hebei finished third, but their loss -- despite a hat trick from Ezequiel Lavezzi -- saw them miss out after Tianjin's 2-1 win over champions Guangzhou Evergrande.
Tianjin join Guangzhou and Shanghai SIPG in next year's continental club championship, while Hebei could yet claim a place if SIPG defeat Shanghai Shenhua in the Chinese FA Cup final later this month.
"My congratulations to Shandong -- they fought for the result while we did not have many highlights," Pellegrini said.
"This season has been a relatively good one. We are a very young club and always trying to reach a higher target. Let's see if we can make it [the ACL] as the fourth team.
"As a young team, we still need to work on lots of aspects to finish in a higher place. I have faith that we can a better club in the future."
Hebei were two goals down after 38 minutes thanks to Hao Junmin and Papis Cisse, but a brace from Lavezzi pulled them level soon after the break.
Diego Tardelli put Shandong back in front three minutes later, and while Lavezzi managed to score a late third, Tardelli also completed a hat trick to give Felix Magath's side the points.
Tianjin, meanwhile, had goals from Anthony Modeste and Sun Ke to thank for their win over Guangzhou, who lost a second straight game since clinching the title.
It meant Fabio Cannavaro's team, who won the second division title last season, secured a place in the ACL for the first time in their history.
"Today I don't want to think about anything but celebrating the victory," Cannavaro, who has been linked with a return to Evergrande, said.
"The club chairman and I really get along and the rest will be easy to settle.
"Every coach wants to manage a team in the AFC Champions League. The chairman said my mission was to bring the team into AFC Champions League, and I managed it."
Meanwhile, Eran Zahavi finished the second as the league's leading scorer after his goal in Guangzhou R&F's 2-0 win over Chongqing Lifan took his season's tally to 27.
Shanghai SIPG slipped to a 3-2 loss to Jiangsu Suning, while Shanghai Shenhua beat relegated Liaoning Whowin 4-1 and Beijing Guoan lost 2-1 to Changchun Yatai.
Yanbian Funde, who have also been relegated, ended the season on a high with a 3-0 win over Guizhou Zhicheng, and Tianjin Teda had a 1-0 win over Henan Jianye.
Michael Church has written about Asian football for more than 20 years and mainly covers the Chinese game for ESPN FC. Twitter: @michaelrgchurch