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Hebei CFFC miss out on ACL spot as Tianjin Quanjin finish third

Manuel Pellegrini and Hebei CFFC could not secure third place.

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

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