Kitchee’s road to the Asian Champions League came to an end after suffering a heartbreaking loss in the 2nd preliminary round to Perak in Ipoh, Malaysia, on Tuesday, February 12th. Following a 1-1 draw after extra time, the decision came down to a penalty shootout, in which Perak kept the upper hand with a final score of 6-5 (1-1).
Both sides appeared to be evenly matched, despite the hosts scoring in the early stage of the game. Perak pressed hard right from the first whistle, and found their 1-0 lead in the 14th minute, when Wander Luiz scored from close range after Gilmar set him up with a left-wing cross.
After trailing their opponents, Kitchee started to settle in to regain some momentum and ball possession, however, their chances came at premium rate. An off-target shot from Lucas Silva midway through the first half might be the only offensive highlight in the first 45 minutes for Alex Chu’s side.
Things turned from bad to worse for them just four minutes after restart, when Matt Smith’s handball in an attempt to stop Perak’s attack earned him an early exit with his second yellow card. Down to 10 men, Li Ngai-hoi was subbed in as a defender at the expense of midfielder Ju Yingzhi.
However, it was Li who was credited for the 88th-minute equalizer that extended the match into extra-time. He tallied from within the box after receiving a cross from Cheng Chin-lung.
In extra-time, Kitchee remained resistant to Perak’s numerous attempts on goal, despite tiredness becoming a factor with a man short. Eventually, they managed to force the match into a decisive penalty shootout.
After both sides showed a perfect record in the first three rounds of the shootout, Leandro was stopped by Wang Zhenpeng. However, Li failed to put the potential game-winner past Perak’s goalkeeper in the fifth round. In the second round of sudden death, Dani Cancela was denied, puttingKitchee on the wrong side of the final score.
Alex Chu expressed after the game that he was satisfied with his players’ performance. He said, “Our players did their best. We wouldn’t have expected to play with 10 men in the second half. But I believed my team could draw level, and even notch a victory. Unfortunately, we lost in the penalty shootout. Moreover, it is never easy to play away, although I have expected Perak to put more pressure in the first half.”
With the loss, Kitchee will move on to participate in the AFC Cup group stage starting in April. Nonetheless, their more imminent task is to prepare for a challenging away game in Tai Po for this coming Saturday’s league fixture.