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Shandong Luneng warm up with title

Hong Kong: Shandong Luneng warmed up for their bid to qualify for the 2019 AFC Champions League by clinching Hong Kong's Lunar New Year Cup on Thursday.

Chinese Super League side Shandong, who have to navigate past the 2019 AFC Champions League playoffs, defeated Japanese club Sagan Tosu 3-1 to claim the Lunar New Year Cup.

Shandong took the field without injured star recruit Marouane Fellaini, who signed from Manchester United last week, but Brazilian centre-back Gil put the Chinese side ahead in the second minute from a corner.

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Shandong sat deep for the rest of the first half, with Sagan Tosu's FIFA World Cup-winning striker Fernando Torres noticeably off the pace.

Graziano Pelle, formerly of Premier League side Southampton, notched Shandong's second goal soon after play resumed, but Torres managed a header in reply. The Spanish forward picked up a yellow card moments later after a spat with a referee.

Flamboyant Shandong goalkeeper Wang Dalei then blocked Torres' next attempt to equalise before Portugal's Pedro Delgado (pictured below) scored Shandong's third with 10 minutes to go.

In an occasionally rough match, Shandong's Cui Leng was sent off in the final minute.

The 31-year-old Belgium international Fellaini had been expected to make his debut for Shandong after signing from Manchester United last week.

But he flew home before the invitational tournament for treatment on a calf injury that had sidelined him from recent Premier League games.

Hong Kong's hometown league XI took third place in the day's other match with a 1-0 victory over Auckland City, who missed their last chance to draw level in stoppage time when a free-kick by Brian Kaltack soared over.

Shandong will face either Thailand's Bangkok United or Vietnam's Hanoi FC in the 2019 AFC Champions League playoffs with the winners taking their place in Group E along with Korea Republic's Gyeongnam FC and Malaysia's Johor Darul Ta'zim.

The fourth team in the group will also advance from the playoffs with 2018 champions Kashima Antlers waiting for either Australia's Newcastle Jets or Indonesia's Persija Jakarta, who meet in the Preliminary Stage Two on Tuesday.

The playoffs will be held on February 19.

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