By Michael Church
HONG KONG (Reuters) - Jonathan Soriano's hat-trick helped earn Beijing Guoan a 6-3 win over Chris Coleman's Hebei China Fortune on Thursday to ensure Roger Schmidt's side reached the halfway point in this year's Chinese Super League campaign in pole position.
Soriano made light of the absence of Beijing's leading scorer Cedric Bakambu through suspension to fire his side to their fourth win in five games to sit a point clear of Shandong Luneng with 15 games in the 30 round season completed.
"We're just the halfway champion, which means nothing over the whole season," said Schmidt.
"We have played lots of tough games in the first half of the season. All of the players have challenged their limitations constantly and after all these tough games, their confidence has increased a lot.
"We have 15 games left and we should focus on that."
Soriano put his side in front after just seven minutes only for Gao Huaze to level for Hebei five minutes later, but the home side approached the halftime break with a two-goal lead as Jonathan Veira and Soriano found the back of the net.
Dong Xuesheng halved the deficit in first-half injury time before Soriano completed his hat-trick in the 58th minute.
Ayoub El Kaabi made it 4-3 four minutes later but goals from Veira and Chi Zhongguo sealed the points for Beijing and left Coleman looking for his first win since taking over as Hebei coach last month.
Champions Guangzhou Evergrande continued their impressive post-World Cup form as Paulinho scored twice to steer Fabio Cannavaro's side to a 3-0 win over Tianjin Teda.
The Brazilian, who re-signed for the club last month after spending last season with Barcelona, scored the second and third goals of his second stint with Evergrande before the break to put the seven-time champions in control.
Paulinho then turned provider in the dying minutes to set up Ricardo Goulart for the simplest of finishes as Guangzhou remained five points off the lead in fourth place but with a game in hand.
Shanghai SIPG have also played one game fewer than Guoan and sit in third place after Oscar's brace helped seal a 4-1 win over Tianjin Quanjian on Wednesday.
Second-placed Shandong Luneng also picked up three points on Wednesday as goals from Diego Tardelli, Jin Jingdao and Li Peng's own goal cancelled out Demba Ba's opening strike for Shanghai Shenhua as the tussle for the title develops into a four-team battle.
Elsewhere, Jiangsu Suning handed Henan Jianye a 1-0 defeat while Beijing Renhe suffered a 4-1 thrashing at the hands of Guangzhou R&F.
Changchun Yatai defeated Dalian Yifang 3-0 to increase speculation around coach Bernd Schuster as bottom side Guizhou Zhicheng picked up a rare victory, with Dan Petrescu's outfit claiming the three points with a 4-3 win over Chongqing Lifan.
(Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Pritha Sarkar)