In the first game of this week’s Hong Kong Premier League games, with 548 spectators, Lee Man proved the better side as they won 2-1 away, against Happy Valley at Hammer Hill Road Sports Ground. This game proved a spicy affair, with no more than 7 players seeing yellow up till the last added minute of the game.
The lack of game time during the international break saw both teams start slowly, players seemingly rusty with their passing and running play. The Bees would grow into the game and their hardworking style of football penned HVAA players in their own half.
The best chance of the first half was squandered by Michaël N’dri and Lee Man: after keeper To Chun-kiu clattered into Lee Hong-lim in the area, the Marseille-born striker chose finesse to overpower and shot the advertising board behind the goal instead. The teams would retreat at halftime, scoreless.
N’dri made up for his first-half mistake at the restart, beating his marker to tuck in a low shot in the 47th minute. Two minutes later, the Jockeys thought they pulled a goal back, only for their well-worked team goal be ruled out for offside by the linesman. Straight down the other end, Lee Man goes, yellow shirts swarming the visiting box and forcing a mistake out of their defense. Lee Hong-lim pounced on the loose ball and HVAA have a mountain to climb.
The game would continue back and forth until the 80th minute, when Manu Gavilán was struck down in the box. The Sevilian quickly dispatched his penalty, but it was simply too late in the game; the score remained the same for the last 10 minutes, and Lee Man go home with three points.
R&F (HK) had the last laugh as they stole three points at the death, in an entertaining game, from Southern on Saturday night.
R&F would score first, through a Sean Tse header in the 4th minute. The game would evolve into an end-to-end affair as both teams attacked. Having withstood the pressure from Leung Nok-hang and Igor Sartori, the South quickly converted and pulled ahead. The boys in red looked to be on fire, shutting down the Chinese visitors’ attacks and marauding forward just as nicely.
R&F was awarded a soft penalty as Sartori was judged to be pulled down in the area. Naturally, the away team equalized and things were back on an even plane. Inexplicably, Southern decided to take off their most lethal attacker in Komezec for the last twenty minutes, and the team fell apart after the Serb left the pitch. Despite Hui Wang-fung’s absolute stunner for Southern, the boys in red could not prevent Leung Nok-hang and Giovane de Silva from scoring two sitters at the death, as their three points fell cruelly away.
Tai Po nervously edged out Rangers at Tai Po Sports Ground on a sunny Sunday afternoon. The Greens were missing captain Dudu and striker Sandro from their ranks, and it showed massively as the home team struggled to regroup and communicate in the face of their pacey opponents.
Tai Po’s injury list only grew longer as Lugo was injured his hamstring in the 4th minute, and was replaced by Lew Wai-yip.
Ex-Tai Po legend Aeder Neves and Leandro Basan were constant threats to the home team throughout the contest, with the latter capitalising on a mistake by Che Renqiu to fire the visitors ahead, with minutes to go in the first half. The Greens answered back swiftly though, as Chan Man-fai’s cross-cum-shot was parried by the Rangers keeper into the path of Sun Ming-him. The youngster tapped home, opening his account for his new side and bringing Tai Po back into the contest as the half time whistle sounded.
Tai Po keeper Felix Luk stood like a brick wall between Rangers and a second goal in the first half, but even he could do little against Basan’s superb header in the 47th minute. The home side was left chasing again, but not for long: five minutes later, Yeung Chi-lun was kicked down in the penalty area, and Tai Po drew even again through Michael Luk. The pace of the game kicked up several notches as both sides sensed a winning goal.
Five minutes later, and Tai Po struck again! Lew Wai-yip arched a high cross from the right, and Korean target man Kim Minki rose highest in the box to give the home side the lead for the first time this game. Tai Po would remain in the lead until the final whistle and the Greens defeated Rangers twice in as many meetings.
At the same time, Eastern hit a wall on the road, as the title-chasing team was pegged back 3-1 by home side Kitchee at Mong Kok Stadium. Hong Kong’s version of the Big Blue Derby came with a lot of anticipation; many were hoping for a win to leapfrog R&F at the top of the pile.
Eastern came roaring out of the gates, dominating procedures for the first half of the match. Everton Camargo barged down the right-wing and sent a long cross into the box that was converted, first time of asking, by Lam Ka-wai. Bluewave goalkeeper Wang Zhenpeng was so stunned by the goal he barely registered the ball bouncing off the net and onto the back of his head.
But Kitchee had other ideas. At the end of the first half, Fernando Pedreira, fresh after his injury spell, dove down Eastern territory on the left and teased out a lovely cross; Li Ngai-hoi helped it along and the ball settled into the bottom left corner. The Brazilian swiftly got a goal of his own in the 47th minute as well, a high-floating ball into the box finished with aplomb past a despairing Yapp Hung-fai.
Kitchee made it 3 just past the 50th-minute mark, as Bleda won a dual on the edge of the Long Lion penalty area. The Spaniard sprayed a short pass to Cheng Chin-lung, and the Kitchee youth product made no mistake from the top of the semicircle. Kitchee would see out the game, and take home all three points.
In the last game of the round, Pegasus take on Yuen Long at home at the Hong Kong stadium. Both teams were yet to notch a win this season before this game, and both sides tried hard to carve out chances from kickoff.
Pegasus had the early chances through Gabriel Mendez and Sasaki Shu, although neither attempt was close on target. No matter: Mendez curled a superb free-kick from just outside the area, straight into the side netting, and the Horsemen were up by one.
Yuen Long was struggling and needed a quick equalizer to get back into the game. The Tangerines started to gain a foothold in the game towards the half-hour mark, with Brazilian midfielder Kessi dos Santos forcing an excellent save from Pegasus keeper Leung Hing-kit from range. There was little the keeper could do to keep out the subsequent corner, as a Pegasus defender was directly in front of him when Law Chun-ting’s inswinging corner was converted by Maicon Santana to tie the score, half-hour in.
Law Chun-ting played a very good game down the wing, managing to find sky-bue shirts in the home box on a fair few occasions. Maicon Santana should have converted one of his crosses but was denied by the right upright right before the half time whistle.
Maicon Santana hit the crossbar again at the restart, hitting the same point from a freekick. The Veranópolis forward could only wheel away, hands on his head in dismay.
The New Territories side swarmed all over Pegasus in the second half but just could not find the killing blow to put the game away. A last-minute lapse of defensive concentration allowed Aussie-Congolese striker Charles Lokolingoy to steal the ball and tuck it home. Pegasus finally got their first win of the season, while Yuen Long will just have to wait that much longer for those precious three points.
Lee Man will host Tai Po next as Happy Valley welcome Southern at home; R&F (HK) will return to Mong Kok to face Kitchee in their next fixture. Pegasus will take on powerhouse Eastern at home again, while bottom-of-the-table Yuen Long will face Rangers at home as well, where a win will see them off the bottom of the league ladder.
Happy Valley 1:2 Lee Man (November 23, 2:30pm, Hammer Hill Sports Ground, Attendance: 548)
Southern 3:4 R&F (HK) (November 23, 5:30pm, Mong Kok Stadium, Attendance: 901)
Tai Po 3:2 Rangers (November 24, 2:30pm, Tai Po Sports Ground, Attendance: 537)
Kitchee 3:1 Eastern (November 24, 2:30pm, Mong Kok Stadium, Attendance: 1993)
Pegasus 2:1 Yuen Long (November 25, 8:00pm, Hong Kong Stadium, Attendance: 363)