Axel Witsel strikes late as Tianjin Quanjian beat Guangzhou R&F
Fabio Cannavaro's Tianjin Quanjian won for the third game in a row to close the gap on the leading trio in the Chinese Super League after Axel Witsel's last-minute goal handed Guangzhou R&F a 2-1 defeat.
Witsel's goal in the dying seconds handed Tianjin a win that moved the Italian coach's team to within a point of third-placed Hebei CFFC, who meet Henan Jianye on Saturday, after Eran Zahavi cancelled out Sun Ke's opener for Tianjin.
Despite the win, Cannavaro was looking over his shoulder rather at the relegation contenders rather than at the teams ahead of his side as Tianjin closed in on the qualifying spots for the Asian Champions League.
"We haven't reached our goal yet," said the World Cup winning former defender. "We hope to become stronger. I have the perfect chairman who doesn't interfere in my job. He trusts me and I do my best to manage the team.
"But our goal for this season was to avoid relegation because this is our first year in the Chinese Super League. We want to get to 40 points as soon as possible to ensure we don't get relegated.
"Now, we have a lot of points still to win. When we get to 40 points then we will consider other things."
Sun put Tianjin in front in the 25th minute before Zahavi headed home Junior Urso's cross from the right to score his league-leading 13th goal of the season.
The game appeared to destined to end in a draw, but the failure of the R&F defence to clear a late ball into the penalty area ended with Witsel slotting his finish past goalkeeper Chen Yuelei.
Tianjin, who won Chinese second division title last season, have now amassed 28 points from the first 16 games of the season, one behind Hebei but nine behind league leaders Guangzhou Evergrande.
Cannavaro's team are also 18 points clear of 15th placed Yanbian Funde and a further point ahead of bottom-of-the-table Jiangsu Suning, with the pair occupying the relegation places.
Michael Church has written about Asian football for more than 20 years and mainly covers the Chinese game for ESPN FC. Twitter: @michaelrgchurch