Soccer: Lavezzi double keeps Hebei's Asian hopes alive
By Michael Church
HONG KONG (Reuters) - - Ezequiel Lavezzi scored twice as Manuel Pellegrini's Hebei CFFC kept their hopes of a place in next year's Asian Champions League alive with a 2-0 win over Tianjin Teda on Monday evening.
The Argentinian striker's brace moved Hebei up to fifth in the standings and just two points behind Shandong Luneng, who occupy the third and final qualifying berth for next year's continental championship.
Lavezzi gave Hebei the lead after 25 minutes when he volleyed the ball home from eight yards (metres) out. Nine minutes into the second half he then doubled his side's advantage with a low shot from outside the area.
"The three points is important for us as we returned to fifth place on the rankings, sharing the same points with Beijing and Guangzhou R&F," said Pellegrini. "We will face these two teams at home and we have 24 more points to fight for. These three points today are crucial."
Shandong Luneng moved into third place after Graziano Pelle scored twice in his side's 5-0 thrashing of Shanghai Shenhua, while Guizhou Zhicheng stalled Guangzhou R&F's impressive run with a 2-0 win over Dragan Stojkovic's side.
Roger Schmidt kept his unbeaten start to life at Beijing Guoan intact with a 4-0 win over Liaoning Whowin and Changchun Yatai shared the points with last-placed Yanbian Funde in a 1-1 draw.
Guangzhou Evergrande, meanwhile, continue to lead the standings by five points from Shanghai SIPG as Luiz Felipe Scolari's team began life without Barcelona-bound midfielder Paulinho.
The Brazilian has been his club's standout performer this season but the defending champions managed to pick up all three points against Henan Jianye, despite his absence, with a 2-1 win that takes the club another step closer to a seventh consecutive league title.
"Before the match we knew it would be very difficult," Scolari said. "Henan is a very well-organised team and their defensive line was very good.
"Today we were too anxious to score goals, and that anxiety didn't do us any good with our final shot. But of course in the end we gained what we wanted."
SIPG, meanwhile, kept pace with Scolari's team thanks to an 88th minute winner from Wu Lei as Andre Villas-Boas' side notched up a 3-2 victory over Chongqing Lifan.
The teams traded goals in a seesaw game that saw former Chelsea striker Oscar return after serving an eight-game ban for his part in instigating a brawl during SIPG's draw with Guangzhou R&F in May.
Hulk put SIPG in front from the penalty spot only for Hyuri to level for Chongqing. Odil Ahmedov put Shanghai back in front before Liu Huan looked to have secured a point for the visitors in the 87th minute, only for Wu to score the winner a minute later.
"We had the chance to finish the game at an earlier stage but we didn't convert our chances," said Villas-Boas.
"Our scoring efficiency was not good enough, which will make things more difficult in later games. However, what satisfied me was that we eventually won. The three points are super important to us," he said.
(Reporting by Michael Church, editing by Gareth Jones)