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Shandong clinch championship as club bus attacked after match

Shandong Luneng are the 2010 Chinese Super League champions, after drawing 1-1 away to basement side Nanchang in an oddly-scheduled game  at 3.40pm on a Wednesday afternoon. They take the Chinese Super League title for the third time in five seasons, and are Chinese champions for the fourth time.

The anti-social timing wasn’t enough to prevent some anti-social behaviour in the form of Nanchang fans launching an attack on a Shandong team or fans’ bus (it’s not clear which) after the game (pictures).

Such aftermatch bus-stonings and punch-ups seem to have been an emerging trend this year. Although the violence has not been as extreme as media make out.

During the game itself, relegation-threatened Nanchang took a shock lead in the 62nd minute, before Honduran midfielder Julio César de León equalized 15 minutes from time to give Shandong the vital point they needed to move beyond the reach of 2nd-placed Shanghai Shenhua.

However, with only one win in their last five games, how Shandong must regret not sealing the championship infront of their own fans against Qingdao last weekend. Their failure to beat their provincal rivals meant they had to wait until today to clinch the title away from home, in Nanchang in the middle of a weekend afternoon. Why play the match at this time? Who knows. China moves in mysterious ways and its football authorities are no different. So one can only make wild guesses as to why some league matches are played in the afternoon during the week when most people are at work. A respectable number of Shandong fans still managed to make the long-distance trip however.

Ultimately, Shandong’s result didn’t matter as a few hours later nearest challenges Shanghai Shenhua continued their erratic form and went down 2-1 away to Henan Jianye. For the Hongkou side’s prospects for the rest of this season, only two loses in their last two games, plus two victories for Beijing, Tianjin and Hangzhou will see Shenhua fail to qualify for the Asian Champions League (ACL). Speaking of which, Beijing made a huge stride for ACL qualification by beating Dalian 2-1 tonight, as did Hangzhou who picked up an impressive 2-0 win away to Shaanxi.

So, with two games left to play, Shenhua and Tianjin look fairly certain to grab the 2nd and 3rd ACL spots. Beijing, Dalian, Hangzhou are separated by only a point in the race for 4th. Henan and Liaoning could snatch it but only if the afore mentioned trio really stuff things up.

The real excitment is at the bottom of the table where two points separate the bottom five. Shenzhen had a massive victory today to lift them off bottom and condem Chongqing to last place instead. Nanchang’s draw against Shandong means they are ahead of Chongqing in 2nd bottom but only on goal difference. Nanchang play Changsha on the last game of the season in about 10 days time, the loser of that match will most likely be relegated, but Qingdao and Shenzhen are also not out of the woods yet.

Julio César de León

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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