In a result completely at odds with pre-match predictions it was Woofai Tai Po who were victorious over much-fancied South China, in what was an interesting cup-tie at Mong Kok Stadium. Chris Foley reports.
Tai Po made it clear from the off that they weren’t going to surrender their Senior Shield campaign without a fight, with domineering centre back Everson De Lima laying down a marker early on, receiving a yellow card for a heavy challenge on South China’s Awal Mahama. Undeterred by this, Mahama’s pace proved to be a threat throughout the first half, and almost culminated in an opening goal early on, as he broke down the right-wing and crossed for Nikola Komazec who failed to make contact with the ball – the first chance in what was to prove to be a frustrating afternoon for the Serbian hitman. On the opposite wing, Lo Kong Wai was proving himself to be every bit as threatening for South China, with his tricky dribbling causing problems for the visiting backline. He was unlucky not to create a goal himself soon after, breaking free down the left hand side before squaring to Komazec who missed the ball with the goal at his mercy. After this, Tai Po began to gain more of a foothold in the game, and were unlucky not to break the deadlock at the other end after David Lazari was denied by a last ditch tackle from Bojan Malisic following great work from Lucas Da Silva. Despite the attacking talent available to both sides, goal scoring chances in this first half were few and far between. A tame header from defender Dudu, easily saved by Tsang Man Fai in the South China goal proved to be the only real chance in the remainder of the first half, and the two sides went in at the break level.
Fortunately for the spectators at Mong Kok stadium, the second half proved to be far more exciting than the stalemate they had endured in the first, as the home side came bursting out of the traps after the break. Komazec was denied by a last ditch tackle by Everson Da Lima after breaking through, before Mahama curled a fantastic shot at goal only to be denied by an even-better save by Li Hon Ho in the Tai Po goal. At this point in the game, the momentum seemed firmly with the home side, until, against the run of play, the deadlock was broken by Tai Po’s Wong Wai through somewhat fortuitous circumstances. Brazilian David Lazari, who himself had been a threat throughout the game, drilled a shot low and hard towards goal only for it to be misdirected and land at the feet of Wong Wai who made no mistake in slotting the ball into the back of the net. Lazari almost doubled their lead soon after, curling a free-kick which look destined for the top-corner of the net only to be denied by a fantastic save from Tsang Man Fai. Experienced striker Ryan Griffiths was brought on by South China coach Ricardo Rambo as the home side attacked desperately in search of an equalising goal. However, their search was in vain, with another chance falling to, once again, Nikola Komazec who sent a header harmlessly over the bar following a great cross by Chan Siu Ki. Ultimately this was to be the last real chance for the home side, and after dumping out the thirty-time winners of the Senior Shield, Tai Po will now be looking at this competition as a realistic chance for silverware ahead of the Semi-Finals at the end of December.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Everson Da Lima
SOUTH CHINA: Tsang Man Fai, Sean Tse (Chan Siu Kwan), Andrew Russell, Chan Siu Ki, Awal Mahama, Nikola Komazec, Luiz Carlos (Ryan Griffiths), Chan Wai Ho, Bojan Malisic, Lo Kong Wai (Law Hiu Chung), Leung Kwun Chung
TAI PO: Li Hon Ho (Paulo Cesar), Everson Da Lima, Lew Wai Yip, Dudu, Wong Wai, Lee Ka Yiu, Chan Liming, Lucas Da Silva (Ye Jia), David Lazari, Chan Yuk Chi, Chan Cham Hei.