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Riascos hat-trick condems Shenzhen to sixth straight defeat

Columbian striker Duvier Riascos scored an hat-trick as Shanghai Shenhua made ammends for their China Derby defeat to Beijing on Saturday by trouncing Shenzhen 4-0 on their own turf.

For reasons best known to the Chinese Super League organizers, the game kicked off to a virtually empty stadium at 3.30pm on a weekday afternoon. But it didn’t deter Riascos who made up for being suspended against Beijng by scoring two goals in the last ten minutes to seal his hat-trick after scoring his first in the 51st minute. In-form Feng Ren Liang scored the other goal for Shenhua.

Naturally, Shandong won yet again with a 1-0 victory at home over Shaanxi. But the Shenhua result was significant not because it had any bearing on the championship race, but because it sent free-falling Shenzhen, the 2004 Chinese Super League champions, to the bottom of the Chinese Super League.

So, with the championship race all but over, what’s to play for in the Chinese Super League as we head into the final month of the season? The answer is – quite a lot. Almost every team, except the top two, is either battling for a place in the Asian Champions League, or fighting against relegation.

The aforementioned Shenzhen really look to be in a lot of trouble and were not on anyone’s relegation-radar at the start of the season, or even half-way through it. Despite signing Vyacheslav Hleb from Shenhua in the close season, a player who was arguably the Hongkou side’s best player last year, and recently adding Kiwi striker Chris Killen to their squad, for some reason they have not won since August 14 and have only won three of their last 15 games.

They are tied in last place on 24 points with promoted side Nanchang, but have a game in hand. One point ahead of this pair are regular relegation battlers Chongqing Lifan, and two points ahead in 14th place is Qingdao. Changsha are in 13th with 28 points, but a game in hand against Shenzhen. Its most likely that the two relegated teams will come from these five sides. Changchun and Jiangsu are only a point ahead on 29 points, but its hard to see either of these more capable sides going down.

The race for the Asian Champions League is just as tight. Six points separate 3rd from 9th place, with any of these teams able to snatch the 3rd or 4th place necessary to make the continental competition. Check out the table on soccerway to see who is in the mix. Your correspondent thinks Beijing will use the impetus from their victory over Shanghai to drive them to a strong finish and a top four place, having beaten Hangzhou 2-1 tonight in a vital ACL qualifying game. As for the last qualifier – its too tight to call.

A leading international commentator on Chinese football frequently quoted by the world's top media. Offers piercing and resolutely honest insights into the bustling crossroads where football, society, economics and politics meet in contemporary China. Based in Shanghai since 2005, observer of the Chinese game since 2000.

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