On what was the coldest day in Hong Kong for over six decades, Southern and Eastern faced each in the 116th Senior Shield final, as 4,557 fans braved the wintery conditions to make the trip to Hong Kong Stadium to watch the fiery encounter. For the Aberdeeners, this was their first major cup final since their inception, whilst the blues were looking to take home the shield for a tenth time – a record surpassed only by South China who have thirty one titles to their name in this competition. Jeff Hardbattle was there to round-up all of the talking points from the match.
SOUTHERN 0:2 EASTERN
(Eastern goalscorers: Xu Deshuai ’61; Barisic 85′)
(Match report by Jeff Hardbattle)
Make no mistake about it – Eastern are flying at the moment. Yet to lose under head coach Chan Yuen-ting and firmly in control of the race to win the Premier League title, their fans were anxious to see whether their team could retain the Senior Shield under the weight of expectation.
To do so, they needed to get past a Southern side that have been in good form of late and have only lost one of their last ten matches in all competitions. They currently sit 4th in the Premier League, and players such as James Ha indicated in the pre-match build-up just how much they wanted to bring home the club’s first piece of silverware, with the former also commenting “Our form and confidence are both on a high and I can guarantee that Eastern will have their hands full on Sunday afternoon”.
He was not wrong, as Southern frustrated their opponents for large parts of the first half and were comfortably able to deal with Eastern‘s attacking potency up front. The opening 45 minutes offered little in terms of high-energy football, and goalkeepers Tse Tak-him and Yapp Hung-fai were not required to be called into action too often in the early exchanges. In truth, it was actually the underdogs who had the better of the scoring chances, asking questions of the Eastern defence on a couple of occasions with Shay Spitz (13′) and Emmet Wan (35’) having efforts on goal that were comfortably saved by Yapp Hung-fai, but nevertheless gave a strong sign Southern had not shown up to simply make up the numbers.
In the 36th minute, disaster nearly struck for the blues after Michael Luk picked up the ball and powerfully drove a low ball into the Eastern box that eluded their defenders, with Wellingsson de Souza lurking at the far post waiting to strike. The Brazilian was able to stretch out his leg to get something on the ball, but his effort went just wide of the left-hand post.
Tempers were starting to fray between players from both teams, and there were several altercations particularly in the first half that meant that the referee had a busy afternoon, dishing out a total of 7 yellow cards over the course of the 90 minutes to Diaz, Luk, Maronesi and Spitz of Southern and Moreira, Barisic and Lo Chi-kwan of Eastern.
With the blues’ introduction of Michel Lugo fairly early in the second half, they began to gradually assert their dominance. The deadlock was finally broken in the 61st minute after Hong Kong national team midfielder Xu Deshuai produced a moment of sheer class for Eastern, when he curled a free kick into the top left corner from well outside of the 18 yard box to send his team’s fans into raptures and make it 1:0.
Andrew Barisic then missed a glorious chance in the 80th minute, when he sliced the ball wide from close range, but he more than made up for it five minutes later. Xu Deshuai was again the catalyst, delivering an excellent ball into the box for the Australian who did well to lose his marker, and he headed the ball home into the bottom right corner for his 9th goal of the season and with it sealing a 2:0 victory for Eastern for their tenth Senior Shield title.
Head coach Chan Yuen-ting stated after the game that although the Premier League was their priority, she wanted her team to savour this latest triumph for now and then turn their focus towards their weekend away trip to Wong Tai Sin. On this showing, Southern are also still on course to have a hugely successful season, but they didn’t have quite enough on the day to stop the wave of royal blue that is slowly starting to flood over the local football scene.
DATE AND TIME: 3pm, Sunday 24th January, 2016
STADIUM: Hong Kong Stadium
SAPLING CUP GROUP B
In the other matches over the weekend, South China defeated Dreams by 3:1 on Friday night with early goals from Luiz Carlos (13′) and Awal (20′). Li Ka-chun managed to pull one back for Dreams (37′), but Australian striker Ryan Griffiths put the victory beyond doubt (65′) to leave the Caroliners qualifying for the next round as runners-up of Group B.
On Saturday, Pegasus managed to overcome Wong Tai Sin at Mong Kok Stadium, winning by 1:0 thanks to a 17th minute goal from Dheigo de Souza. The result means that Pegasus go through as winners of the Group, whilst Dreams and Wong Tai Sin bow out of the competition for this year.
|Team||Game||Win||Draw||Loss||Goal Gain||Goal Loss||Goal Diff||Point|
|2||South China (Q)||3||2||0||1||5||4||1||6|
|3||Wong Tai Sin||3||1||0||2||2||3||-1||3|