Pellegrini's pitch concerns overshadow Hebei draw in CSL
HONG KONG (Reuters) - Manuel Pellegrini was not happy about the state of the pitch in his Hebei CFFC side's 0-0 draw at Changchun Yatai in the Chinese Super League on Sunday, as the battle for places in next year's Asian Champions League intensifies.
Third-place Hebei move onto 46 points from 26 games, two more than Fabio Cannavaro's Tianjin Quanjian after their 4-1 defeat in their derby meeting with Tianjin Teda. The Italian World Cup winning defender's team do, however, have a game in hand.
The top three finishers, along with the winners of the Chinese FA Cup, qualify for the Asian Champions League, but Pellegrini was more concerned about the quality of the field at Changchun's Development Area Stadium.
"Look at the pitch, how can players play in these conditions?" said the former Manchester City boss.
"There were 52 fouls in the whole match, and of those 20 were by us. The players can't properly stop the ball or control it.
"Now we have a three week break to prepare for the next match against Jiangsu (Suning) and we will use that to rest and work on ourselves."
Shandong Luneng missed the opportunity to improve their chances of qualifying for the continental championship when Felix Magath's side were defeated 2-1 by Henan Jianye, with former Bolton Wanderers striker Ricardo Vaz Te among the Henan scorers.
Shanghai SIPG reduced the gap to leaders Guangzhou Evergrande on Friday evening when Andre Villas-Boas's team defeated Beijing Guoan 1-0, while Evergrande were held to a 2-2 draw by Chongqing Lifan.
Evergrande have drawn their last two games and have seen their advantage cut down to four points by SIPG, with only four games remaining.
"Now our lead in the Chinese Super League rankings is not as big as before," said Guangzhou head coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.
"But our determination to win the title is even stronger.
"Of course, we will encounter some strong teams on our way to the title but we have never been as confident as we are now. We won't underestimate any opponent."
At the bottom of the league, Liaoning Whowin dropped into last place following a 1-0 defeat at Yanbian Funde on Saturday, while a 1-0 loss against Guizhou Zhicheng means Fabio Capello's Jiangsu Suning remain in danger of relegation.
Liaoning are 16th in the standings with 17 points, with Yanbian and Tianjin Teda level on 19 points and Jiangsu four points further ahead in 13th. The bottom two teams at the end of the season will drop into the second division.
Shanghai Shenhua, meanwhile, won for the first time under new coach Wu Jingui with a 3-1 defeat of Guangzhou R&F, despite the absence of Carlos Tevez from the matchday squad.
(Reporting by Michael Church; Editing by Christian Radnedge)