Finally, Hong Kong representatives Kitchee and South China got their act together in this week’s AFC Cup round. On Tuesday, April 27th, the sky blues took away three points from the Philippines against group rival Kaya FC – thanks to 18-year-old striker Hirokane Harima, who scored the winning goal in the 86th minute. Kitchee are now on top of their group and basically with one foot in the next round. All they need is a win or draw in the last match at Mong Kok Stadium against frequent visitor Balestier Khalsa (Singapore). However, truth told, a victory would be preferred, because if Kitchee finish as group winner, they will get to play the Round of 16 (which is just one-legged) at home against Indian side Bengaluru FC. As runner-up, they would face 2015 title defender Johor Darul Takzim in Malaysia, who are also among this year’s cup contenders.
|3||Balestier Khalsa (SIN)||5||2||1||2||6||6||0||7|
|4||New Radiant (MDV)||5||0||2||3||2||8||−6||2|
But even for South China, the round of 16 are still within reach, although it is going to be a tough call. On Wednesday, April 27th, the Caroliners found some of their recently lost spirit and turned the important home game against Yangon United around. In the 40th minute Ryan Griffiths converted from the spot, leveling the score and making it his second goal in the competition.
— Football in HK (@offsideHK) April 27, 2016
South China increased the pressure in the second half, especially after Yangon were down to 10 men, and Awal scored the winning header in the 84th minute. That victory boosts Ricardo Rambo’s team from 4th to 2nd in the group, but their last match will also be the toughest, when they face unbeaten Mohun Bagan (India) in Guwahati, India. The painful 0-4 defeat at Mong Kok Stadium eventually led to the sacking of former head coach Casemiro Mior. If South China drop points in that game, Yangon United would have to draw with Maziya; a win for either of the other sides would eliminate the Hong Kong team from the cup.
|1||Mohun Bagan (IND)||5||3||2||0||14||6||8||11|
|2||South China (HKG)||5||2||0||3||6||9||-3||6|
|3||Yangon United (MYA)||5||1||2||2||7||8||−1||5|
10 May 2016 – Kitchee -:- Balestier Khalsa
10 May 2016 – New Radiant -:- Kaya
11 May 2016 – Mohun Bagan -:- South China
11 May 2016 – Yangon United -:- Maziya
Photo credits: HKFA