A 44th minute penalty from Roberto Fronza and a tidy finish from Ernesto Gomes seven minutes before time were enough to ensure that Rangers progress to the semi-finals of this year’s inaugural Sapling Cup, despite their troubles in the Premier League.
Last year’s champions Kitchee and playoff winners South China both kicked off their AFC Cup campaigns this week, with Kitchee facing Kaya FC (PHI) on Tuesday night at Mong Kok Stadium and South China making the trip to face Yangon United (MYA) on Wednesday. With both teams struggling to maintain a challenge in this season’s Hong Kong Premier League title race, it remained to be seen whether they could start things off with a positive result in Asia’s second tier continental cup competition. Jeff Hardbattle and Jacob Panons round up the action.
KITCHEE 1:0 KAYA FC (GROUP F)
(Match report by Jacob Panons)
(Kitchee goalscorers: Rufino (PEN) 69′)
A 69’ minute Rufino penalty assured Kitchee a win in 1-0 victory over Kaya FC in their first game of the group stages.
Kitchee looked much the better side in a narrow 1-0 win over AFC Cup debutants, Kaya FC from the Philippines, in the first round of matches in Group F of the AFC Cup. The win saw them claim the top spot in the group after New Radiant (Maldives) and Balestier Khalsa (Singapore) played out a 2-2 draw in the Maldives earlier in the night.
Kitchee looked destined to break the deadlock within the first couple of minutes when playmaker Lam Ka Wai played an inch perfect ball over the top to Annan, who did great to control the ball on his chest but failed to square the ball to Rufino before Kaya goalkeeper, Matthew Acton, slid in to grab the ball from Annan’s feet.
Kaya’s best chance of the first half came 20 minutes in when Daniels found himself 7 yards out, but blasted the ball over the crossbar.
Annan and Rufino were once again the focal points of Kitchee’s attack when a poor back-pass led to a weak clearance from Acton which fell to Annan, but the Hong Kong international failed to capitalise on these mistakes and his placed shot was cleared off the line by Omura.
Kaya looked to gain a little bit of momentum after half time and looked like scoring after a well-planned corner routine gave Borromeo the chance to give Kaya the lead, as the Kaya captain rose above the Kitchee defence to header the ball into the ground forcing Wang Zhengpeng to tip the ball over the crossbar.
Kitchee’s countless chances finally paid off in the 68th minute when a penalty was given, and experienced Spaniard Rufino made no mistakes and placed the ball into the bottom left corner to make it 1-0 to the sky blues.
Annan once again failed to convert another 1-on-1 chance with the goalkeeper in the closing minutes of the game and capped off a fairly underwhelming performance with a yellow card for simulation in the 89th minute.
Many fans may be questioning Abraham Garcia’s decision to exclude Fernando from the AFC Cup squad due to the rather poor performance from fellow winger, Annan. Also, many fans voiced their longing for Belencoso upfront after Rufino failed to make the most of his numerous chances in front of goal.
Kaya were lucky to only lose by 1 goal but Kitchee were ineffective in the final third, and Garcia’s side will be looking for more of an attacking spark in their next AFC Cup outing away to Balestier Khalsa.
DATE AND TIME: 8pm, 23rd February, 2016
STADIUM: Mong Kok Stadium
YANGON UNITED 2:1 SOUTH CHINA (GROUP G)
(Match report by Jeff Hardbattle)
(Yangon United goalscorers: Kyaw Ko Ko 19′, Marcelo 48′)
(South China goalscorers: Griffiths 15′)
A Ryan Griffiths strike from an initally saved penalty was not enough to give South China victory in their opening match in Group G of the AFC Cup, as they succumbed to a 2:1 loss to Yangon United of Myanmar.
The result marks an extremely disappointing start to the campaign for the Caroliners, whose wastefulness in front of goal undoubtedly had an impact on the final score, and they now sit outside of the qualification places after the first round of group matches after Mohun Bagan (IND) thrashed Maziya (MLD) by 5:2.
South China came out of the blocks strongly despite the blistering heat and humidity in Yangon, and their early pressure paid off on the quarter of an hour mark when Mahama Awal was brought down in the area when through on goal. AFC Cup veteran Ryan Griffiths stepped up for the spot kick, only for his first effort to be saved by Yangon United goalkeeper Luiz Fernando. Luckily for the Australian striker, the ball fell kindly to him allowing him to place the ball into the back of the net to make it 1:0 to the Caroliners.
Three minutes after the break, Yangon United scored what proved to be the winner, with Kyaw Ko Ko once again involved by teeing up Brazilian forward Marcelo Fernandes whose low effort went in off post. Questions will be asked of goalkeeper Leung Chun Kit, who perhaps should and could have done more to keep the scores tied.
South China were handed a lifeline in the 55th minute, when midfielder Yan Aung Kyaw was shown a second yellow card and given his marching orders, and the away side had a host of chances to level things up including a Lam Hok Hei header that went just wide of the post, but they were unable to breach the host’s stubborn defence. The match finished in a 2:1 defeat for Casemiro Mior’s side, who will be looking for a response in their next outing when they face Mohun Bagan (IND) at Mong Kok Stadium on the 9th March.
DATE AND TIME: 5:30pm, 24th February, 2o16
STADIUM: Youth Training Centre, Yangon
AFC CUP (GROUP F)
|BALESTIER KHALSA FC (SIN)||1||0||1||0||2||2||0||1|
|NEW RADIANT SC (MDV)||1||0||1||0||2||2||0||1|
|KAYA FC (PHI)||1||0||0||1||0||1||-1||0|
AFC CUP (GROUP G)
|MOHUN BAGAN (IND)||1||1||0||0||5||2||3||3|
|YANGON UNITED (MYA)||1||1||0||0||2||1||1||3|
|SOUTH CHINA (HKG)||1||0||0||1||1||2||-1||0|
|MAZIYA SPORTS & RECREATION (MDV)||1||0||0||1||2||5||-3||0|
Kitchee edged past a spirited Kaya FC of the Philippines on the first match day of Group F. Kaya defended resolutely in-front of the 2000 strong Mong Kok crowd until the deadlock was broken by Rufino Segovia in the 69th minute via the penalty spot. A laboured win by Kitchee but a positive start to the campaign by Abraham Garcia’s men.
Photos from the game by Christopher KL Lau
by Tobias Zuser
edited by Jeff Hardbattle
Now at Round 12 of the Hong Kong Premier League, the teams have also entered the final quarter of the season – making every weekend count to increase or narrow the gap between each other, both at the top and at the bottom of the league.
This year’s overachievers Southern took on troubled title defenders Kitchee on Saturday, followed by a repeat of the midweek game between South China and Yuen Long, who met each other Tuesday at Tseung Kwan O Sports Ground where the Caroliners ran out as 2-1 winners.
On Sunday Pegasus faced the task of putting a halt to powerhouse Eastern‘s unbeaten run at Hong Kong Stadium, before Rangers and Wong Tai Sin faced each other in a head-to-head relegation battle that may well decide who finishes bottom of the pile. Tobias Zuser rounds up all of the action.
SOUTHERN 1:1 KITCHEE
(Southern goalscorers: José María 44′)
(Kitchee goalscorers: Jared Lum 45’+2′)
Kitchee missed out on a great opportunity to close the gap on Eastern, after drawing with a determined Southern squad that managed to upset last year’s champions once again after kicking them out of the Senior Shield back in December.
The main action of the game was limited to three minutes in the first half, when José María exploited an awful mistake by Kitchee goalkeeper Wang Zhenpeng, who let a cross slip through his fingers to allow the lurking Spaniard to tap the ball home. However, just 2 minutes later, Hong Kong-Australian Jared Lum pulled one back for his team with an awe-inspiring corner kick that he circled directly into the back of the net.
DATE AND TIME: 2:30pm, Saturday 20th February, 2016
STADIUM: Aberdeen Sports Ground
YUEN LONG 2:2 SOUTH CHINA
(Yuen Long goalscorers: 80′ Park Chan Jong, 85′ Aleksandar Randelovic)
(South China goalscorers: 18’ Ryan Griffiths, 78′ Mahama Awal)
South China had managed to overcome Yuen Long on their home soil last Tuesday, in a rescheduled Premier League match from earlier in the season. Now, in a repeat fixture just five days afterwards, the boys from the western New Territories had the chance to take revenge. And they did.
Everything looked as though South China would be taking home the points again, with Ryan Griffith’s heading his team in front and Mahama Awal slotting home from close range from a loose ball. However, it just took Yuen Long five minutes to turn the match around – though with some significant help from the Caroliners’ defense. The first goal was a gift from Bojan Malisic, whose weak pass to the goalkeeper was intercepted by Yuan Yang who set up South Korean striker Park Chan Jong to make it 2:1. A few moments after Griffiths was sent off, leaving South China with 10 players, his side’s defense failed to deal with a cross into the box that allowed Aleksandar Randelovic to equalise, albeit with the help of a deflection, to give the home side a share of the spoils.
With this draw, Yuen Long successfully avenged their latest defeat against the Caroliners, barring them from the opportunity to go in front of Eastern in the table. For the boys in orange, this point might prove itself to be very valuable in the relegation battle, as they currently occupy seventh in the league, 2 points ahead of Rangers and 5 points ahead of bottom-of-the-league Wong Tai Sin.
DATE AND TIME: 2:30pm, Saturday 20th February, 2016
STADIUM: Yuen Long Stadium
PEGASUS 0:0 EASTERN
Nevertheless, the game saw some rough play on both sides, with a total of nine bookings for foul play. Additionally, the pitch at Hong Kong Stadium still left the impression that it might need some more time to be at the expected standard for Premier League games. During half time, Chan Yuen Ting tried to shuffle the pack and replaced Andrew Barisic with Michel Lugo, but to no avail. For Pegasus, Hong Kong national team striker Jaimes McKee celebrated his comeback in the 62nd minute, with his last appearance dating back to November 2015. In a match of few clear chances, the best of them undoubtedly fell to Pegasus striker Admir Adrovic, who failed to find the net with only Yapp Hung Fai to beat.
Although Eastern missed a great chance to increase the gap on their rivals South China and Kitchee, they still sit at the top of the league, as both teams could only manage draws this weekend. Pegasus stay in sixth spot – and are all but out of danger from relegation this season.
DATE AND TIME: 2:30pm, Sunday 21st February, 2016
STADIUM: Hong Kong Stadium
RANGERS 2:1 WONG TAI SIN
(Rangers goalscorers: 20′ Ernesto Gómez, 79′ Mauricio Correa Da Luz)
(Wong Tai Sin goalscorers: 25’ Liu Pui Fung)
In what was probably the most significant game of the weekend, Rangers came out on top in a relegation dogfight against Wong Tai Sin.
Both teams kept the game quite open for long periods, despite the cold weather and the unsatisfying conditions of the artificial pitch at Kowloon Bay Park. In the 20th minute, newly signed 33-year old striker Ernesto Gómez scored his first Premier League goal for Rangers after taking advantage of some confusion at the back. However, Wong Tai Sin reacted immediately and Liu Pui Fung equalized just five minutes later.
Most of the 294 spectators that evening may have been expecting another draw, but Mauricio Correa Da Luz made the difference, with probably one of his most important goals this season that secured Rangers three crucial points.
After their defeat, Wong Tai Sin slip to the bottom of the league, and are now strongest candidates for relegation this season. Rangers are now in eigth place, 3 points ahead of the troubled district team.
DATE AND TIME: 5:30pm, Sunday 21st February, 2016
STADIUM: Kowloon Bay Park
BOCG LIFE HONG KONG PREMIER LEAGUE TABLE (21/2/2016)
|Team||Game||Win||Draw||Loss||Goal Gain||Goal Loss||Goal Diff||Point|
|9||Wong Tai Sin||10||0||3||7||6||16||-10||3|