Cannavaro leads Tianjin Quanjian to AFC Champions League

Fabio Cannavaro has successfully led Tianjin Quanjian to an AFC Champions League playoff berth following a dramatic final day of the 2017 Chinese Super League campaign.

Beginning the day a point behind Hebei China Fortune outside the qualification zone with an inferior goal difference, Quanjian knew they had to win and hope their competitors were defeated in order for them to climb into third spot.

The main problem for them was that they were coming up against champions Guangzhou Evergrande.

But, the Tianjin-based outfit upheld their end of the bargain as they claimed a 2-1 victory at the Tianhe Stadium.

Anthony Modeste got the visitors on their way in the 18th minute, meeting Zhang Cheng’s right-wing cross with an emphatic first-time finish into the back of the net.

Sun Ke then doubled their lead a minute after the hour mark and, although Feng Xiaoting pulled one back for Evergrande three minutes later, it proved to be a mere consolation.

Remarkably, Quanjian were then helped along their way as Hebei fell to 5-4 loss to Shandong Luneng in a thriller at the Jinan Olympic Sports Center Stadium.

Goals from Hao Junmin and Papiss Cisse initially put Shandong in control of proceedings, although an Ezequiel Lavezzi brace saw the visitors pull level by the 56th minute.

Shandong star Diego Tardelli then netted twice – sandwiching a Dong Xuesheng effort – to put the hosts back on course for victory.

Lavezzi looked to have earned Hebei a draw at the very least when he converted a penalty in the third minute of injury-time.

But, right at the death, Shandong were awarded a spot-kick of their own and Tardelli made no mistake in completing his hat-trick from 12 yards to complete a drama-filled conclusion to the Chinese Super League season.

Qualifying for the Champions League playoffs also marks an impressive continuation to Cannavaro’s reign at the club.

After taking over from Vanderlei Luxemburgo last June, the former Italy captain led them to promotion to the top flight and has now brought them one step further to the continental stage.

While the exact allocations for next year’s Champions League are yet to be finalised, Quanjian are likely to enter the tournament in the qualifying playoffs, meaning they only need to win one match to advance to the group stage proper.

Cannavaro was previously in charge of Evergrande when he replaced Marcello Lippi in November 2014, but lasted just seven months before parting ways with the Chinese giants.