The first and second placed of the Hong Kong Premier League met in the Sapling Cup final on a sunny afternoon on Saturday, May 19th. After 90 minutes Kitchee won the trophy for the first time in club history in front of 2,165 fans, thanks to a late Fernando brace, as Leung Kwun-Chung’s stoppage time goal was not enough for Tai Po to defend their title.
Besides regular starter Tan Chun-lok, Tai Po also relied on Chiu Siu-wai as their chosen sapling, while Kitchee fielded Barak Braunshtain and Sebastian Buddle to fulfil the Sapling Cup U22 requirement. The game started off lively as both sides were keen to attack. In the 7th minute, Sandro was released down the right on a counter, and sent a dangerous through ball to Fernando on the left, but Jack Sealy blocked and cleared before he could shoot. Five minutes later, Chiu Siu-wai received the ball from Wong Wai in the box, but his attempt was easily saved by Guo Jianqiao. Kitchee later had two more free kick opportunities in the centre, but Fernando and Kim Dong-jin sent them just over the crossbar. The closest chance in the first half came from Tai Po, as Sean Tse cut a through ball to Chiu Siu-wai, who was blocked by a perfectly timed out-coming Guo Jianqiao.
The game restarted with much more heated exchange between the sides. Both Kim Bong-jin and Tong Kin-man were booked for dangerous challenges early in the second half. In the 68th minute, Tai Po made a double substitution to put Leung Kwun-Chung and Dhiego Martins on for their wing backs David Lazari and Jack Sealy, to strengthen their attack. Meanwhile, forward Chiu Siu-wai dropped to the right wingback position. Kitchee reacted by bringing in more attacking-minded Lam Zhi-gin for Tong Kin-man on the right. The changes set Kitchee’s flanks free. In the 85th minute Dani went down the left and chipped the ball in across goal over the entire Tai Po defense. Fernando only had to to poke the ball into the net at the far post. Four minutes later, Li Hon-ho could only parry out Barak Braunshtain’s shot, leaving Fernando to score on the rebound. Tai Po threw almost all men up front in the closing minutes. In the 93rd minute Igor Satori’s corner was knocked inside the box by Sean Tse at the far post, and headed in by Leung Kwun-chung at the near post. However there was too little time left on the clock for Tai Po to defend their cup as Kitchee got away with the 2-1 victory.
The teams will meet again next Saturday, May 26th, at 3pm at Hong Kong Stadium to decide who can win the last trophy of the season, the FA Cup.
DATE AND TIME: Saturday, May 19th, 2018, 3pm
STADIUM: Hong Kong Stadium
Photo gallery by Ken Wu