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Kitchee and Auckland in LNY Cup final

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20170128b

The arrival of the Year of the Rooster means it is time for Hong Kong’s annual Lunar New Year Cup. Essentially a festive show-tournament, the Cup has something of the flavor of the Boxing Day friendlies and test matches organized in other sports and regions.

Fans could have been forgiven for thinking this annual tradition was on the verge of petering out in recent years. The last two tournaments have featured only two teams, and in 2016, for the first time ever, no sides from outside Hong Kong were in attendance. This year, however, the field is stronger and the Cup in more apparent health, with local representatives Kitchee joined by three regional heavyweights: FC Seoul of the K-League, eight times OFC Champions League winners Auckland City, and 2016 Thai champions Muangthong United.

The Cup is played out in a four-team straight knockout format, with a playoff for third place.

Saturday’s semi-finals were closely-fought affairs. Auckland got the better of Seoul in the opener, settled by a tap-in from Argentine forward Emiliano Tade on the stroke of half time. It capped one of the game’s few well-worked passing moves. In a compact match of few chances, Seoul were in subdued form, despite a wealth of talent in their side including veteran internationals Kwak Tae-Hwi and Kim Chi-Woo. The Korean champions came alive only at the last, forcing a dramatic double save from Auckland’s Eñaut Zubikara in the final minute.

Kitchee found themselves trailing after 41 minutes against Muangthong, when Thailand striker Teerasil Dangda ran onto a hopeful through-ball to finish crisply past Wang Zhenpeng. Parity was restored nine minutes after the restart after Muangthong lost possession by overplaying in defence. When Matt Lam’s cross was not cut out, Yuen Long’s Diego Higino – playing for Kitchee on a one-off basis – was on hand to tap in for his temporary employers. No further scoring meant the tie went to penalties, and even the short-out was tight, with Kitchee eventually triumphing 5-4. Lam and Rufino were among those to score from the spot.

The Hong Kong team go forward to Tuesday’s final with Auckland, before which Seoul face Muangthong in the battle to avoid the wooden spoon.

ACL News Photos

Gallery: Kitchee Win Dramatic Five Goal Thriller

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Joy Unconfined - Lam Ka Wai

A fervent Hong Kong Stadium witnessed one of the games of the season so far as a battling and spirited performance from Kitchee saw them overcome Hanoi FC (Vietnam) 3-2 to send them to the playoff round and closer to the Asian Champions League group stages. Stalwart and club legend Lam Ka-wai snatched the win in extra-time with his downward header. Organized chaos and utter pandemonium ensued as Kitchee players, fans and staff celebrated the victory when penalties seemed inevitable.

The game took a few dramatic turns and the lead changed several times with Sandro and Akande grabbing vital goals for the home side. The small but passionate crowd played a crucial role in encouraging Kitchee forward. Kitchee now have a date with destiny on February 7th when they travel away to South Korea to face Ulsan Hyundai with the winner going through to the Asian Champions League group stages.

February 7th could prove to be the most important game in Kitchee’s history.

Pictures from the night from JRP Borthwick and Christopher KL Lau.

Latest News Podcast

The Hong Kong Football Podcast – Episode 24

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This week James Legge and Tobias Zuser look back on a very impressive start for South China’s newest signing, take a look at what went wrong for the top two at the weekend, and get the lowdown on Kitchee’s Vietnamese opponents in Wednesday’s AFC Champions League qualifier. For more intel they were joined on the phone by Hanoi Football Show host Bill.

How will Kitchee line up for this big game? Are Yuen Long really involved in the title race? And what about that Asia Cup qualifying draw for the Hong Kong national team?

Share your opinions with us at podcast@offside.hk!

DON’T MISS A NEW EPISODE ANY MORE: Subscribe to our podcast via iTunes or any other podcast platform by searching for “Hong Kong Football Podcast” in the directory.

Link: https://soundcloud.com/hk_football_podcast/episode-24-points-dropped-at-the-top-as-kitchee-face-hanoi-challenge

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