The penultimate round of the Sapling Cup group stage saw Tai Po and Pegasus claiming their spot in the Sapling Cup semi finals. They will be joined by Kitchee, while Lee Man still have a theoretical chance to grab the remaining spot from Dreams in the last round.
DREAMS 0-2 TAI PO
(Match report by Christie Leung)
The leaders in Group A of the Sapling Cup, Tai Po and Dreams, met in front of 571 fans on Friday evening, February 9th, where a draw could have sent both teams through to the next round. However, thanks to goals from two U22 players, Tai Po advanced to the semi-finals with one game to spare.
The game kicked off with high pace, as both sides looked for an early goal. Tai Po took the 1-0 lead in 17th minute, when captain Tan Chun-lok sent a low cross from the left wing. Chiu Siu-wai arrived in the middle to send the ball goal ward. The tempo of the game slowed down after that and both goalkeepers had little to do. Only in the 44th minute, Dreams’ Joaquin Garcia’s free kick was met by teammate Leung Kwok-wai, whose header forced a save by Li Hon-ho.
Dreams came back from the break dominating the game, with a couple of chances, but forwards Nacho Martinez and Harima Hirokane failed to capitalize on them. Their closest chance came in the 72nd minute, when Lam Hin-ting’s attempt from the right was parried by Li Hon-ho and fell oto Joaquin Garcia, whose follow-up shot was also blocked. As Dreams continued to press for an equalizer, Tai Po was fast on the counter. Goalscorer Chiu Siu-wai was found unmarked down the right in the 78th minute, but Tse Ka-wing confidently claimed the ball in the one-on-one. Tai Po doubled their lead in the final action of the game, when Dhiego Martins dribbled past the last defender, before passing to substitute Wong Cho-sum who tapped in for 0-2.
DATE AND TIME: Friday, 9th February, 8:00pm
STADIUM: Mong Kok Stadium
RANGERS 1-2 R&F
Rangers and R&F faced off against each on Saturday afternoon, February 10th, for a Sapling Cup Group B fixture. Goals from Wong Kai-yiu and Tiago de Leonco helped R&F overcame Rangers 2-1, as the Guangzhou side opened its winning account in the Sapling Cup group stage. Lau Chi-lok scored for Rangers, but it was too little, too late.
DATE AND TIME: Saturday, 10th February, 5:30pm
STADIUM: Tseung Kwan O Sports Ground
YUEN LONG 1-2 LEE MAN
(Match report by Ben Bennett)
On February 11th, Lee Man came from a goal down at half time to end Yuen Long’s hopes of claiming a cup double in front of 410 spectators at Hammer Hill Sports Ground.
On the back of their Senior Shield win and draw over Eastern, the Tangerines started the game the better and Aleksandar Randelovic spurned an early opportunity by scuffing the ball over the bar from eight yards. The Serbian more than made up for the miss, however, by scoring the opener with a sumptuous half volley that flew into the top left corner from the corner of the penalty area on 21 minutes.
Lee Man came out of the dressing room at half time as a different team and they equalised after 65 minutes with a perfectly executed free kick by Stefan Pereira from the left that curled into the near post. Ten minutes later, however, Yuen Long could have retaken the lead as Walter Soares Jr. struck the bar when well-placed in the area.
As the game seemed to be edging towards a draw, Lee Man won a penalty, as Tomas Maronesi fouled Pereira to earn himself a second yellow and a red card. Pereira stepped up, but saw his spot kick saved by Chan Ka-ho diving to his right.
The one-man advantage told in injury time, when Pereira swept past Fábio down the left and rolled the ball across the goal line, leaving substitute Denis Lima with an open goal to give the Bees a deserved victory.
Both sides now can switch focus to their league campaigns and the FA Cup after the New Year break.
DATE AND TIME: Sunday, 11th February, 2:30pm
STADIUM: Hammer Hill Road Sports Ground
PEGASUS 1-0 SOUTHERN
Pegasus and Southern squared off on late Sunday afternoon, February 11th, for the second Sapling Cup group fixture of the day. Mahama Awal was the hero of the match, as the Pegasus winger scored in the second-half, claiming all three points from the Group B affair.
DATE AND TIME: Sunday, 11th February, 5:30pm
STADIUM: Tsing Yi Sports Ground