The road of defending the Senior Shield for Kitchee, and with it the treble, came to an unexpected end in this year’s semi-final. On Sunday, December 24, the underdogs Yuen Long eliminated last year’s title winners with a score of 3-1, thanks to a two-goal effort by Everton Camargo in extra time. 1732 people decided to spend their Christmas Eve at Mong Kok Stadium.
Although it seemed to be a one-sided affair on paper, the match could have gone either way right from the beginning. Interestingly, the Tangerines emerged as the more motivated and aggressive side, putting pressure on Kitchee at the front end. Meanwhile, the Bluewaves’ three-men defense looked surprisingly unorganized, handing Camargo his first of many chances only seven minutes in, but the shot only touched the side of the net. Kitchee were without midfielder Krisztian Vadocz due to suspension, and his absence appeared to have a major impact on the team.
Few moments later, a dangerous cross almost reached an unmarked Tomas Maronesi on the far side, but Kim Bongjin made a timely clearance. Soon after, Tam Lok-hin went full speed to greet Camargo’s inch-perfect cross with a header that barely missed the target.
On the other end, Kitchee had not much to show for, but were opportunistic to open the score. Sandro headed in from the six-yard box in the 38th minute from a cross by Matt Lam. However, their lead was short-lived, as Yuen Long immediately replied with an equalizer just three minutes later. Ip Chung-long beat Wang Zhenpeng from a narrow angle after receiving Everton Camargo’s pass.
The second half played out evenly, as both teams created chances, though Kitchee were gaining the upper hand and increased their pressure. Substitute Lucas Silva could have been Kitchee’s hero, if his header did not sail over the crossbar. Meanwhile, Camargo’s effort in the 64th minute that hit the post could have decided the game earlier on.
In an attempt to increase the creativity in the midfield, Kitchee coach Alex Chu made all three substitutions within a span of twelve minutes, bringing in Lam Ka-wai, Lucas Silva, and Dani Cancela. But the changes were not fruitful, as Yuen Long coach Tsang Chiu-tat stuck to the initial game plan, which seemingly worked in perfection to resist last year’s champions.
Deadlocked after 90 minutes, the contest made a dramatic turn only a minute into extra time. Cancela was sent off after receiving his second yellow card after a rough tackle on Camargo. The one-man-advantage certainly favored the Tangerines now, who scored the potential game-winner just four minutes later. Camargo stole the ball from Sandro, and then ran almost 30 yards before firing a shot to beat Wang for the first lead of the day.
The Brazilian striker secured Yuen Long’s stunning victory 20 minutes into extra time, as he took advantage of Nando Recio’s mistake in the midfield and finished with the right amount of coolness after circumventing the goalkeeper.
For a crowd of 1,732 at the stadium, Yuen Long’s 3-1 upset might not be what they would have predicted before the kick-off. On top of the elimination, the Kitchee record of 13 undefeated matches this season came to an end. On the other side, it turned into a very merry and memorable Christmas for Yuen Long after clinching their spot in the final for the first time in 50 years. They will face Eastern in the Senior Shield final on January 27th at Hong Kong Stadium.