This year’s First Division pace-setters Tai Po entered the long weekend needing only a point against Hong Kong FC to seal the title. Instead, second-placed FC subjected the home side to a 1-5 thrashing, and in the process threw open a title race that had seemed all but over.
An energetic and balanced first half had finished goalless, giving little sense of the deluge that was to come. Both sides favoured direct counter-attacking play, HKFC in particular favouring long balls to the wings for their wide-roaming attackers to pick up. Both sides lacked quality with the final ball however, and the greatest goal threat came from set pieces. The half’s best chance saw Tai Po crash a header against the crossbar on 40 minutes.
It took ten minutes of a similarly tight second half for HKFC to take the lead. With the ball laid off to their No. 22, James Beacher, sitting deep on the right, there was little obvious threat. But the tall midfielder in the pink boots stroked a graceful, almost casual shot into the far corner, leaving little chance for the home ‘keeper.
If that looked a little undeserved, although beautifully executed, Tai Po invited the two-goal burst that followed by recklessly pouring forward. Pushing high up, they forced their goalkeeper into a sweeper role to which he seemed unaccustomed. A quick ball over the top from HKFC saw him in hasty retreat. The visitors’ no.24, their best player on the day, resisted an early shot but instead set up a centrally-placed colleague no.10, Thomas Smith, who bundled the ball home at the second attempt. Shortly afterward, Beacher struck a second from a similar range to his first, this time delicately arching the ball over a stranded keeper.
Brief signs of life from Tai Po saw them score perhaps the team goal of the game, Chen Lap Ming deftly turning in Leong Ka Hang’s cross after the Macanese winger had beaten his man on the right. Poor defending, however, promptly ensured this would be no more than a consolation, with HKFC’s Andrew Wylde heading in a sloppily defended corner. The coup de grace came as strolling Beacher completed his hat-trick, heading home from close range after a free kick.
This division had seemed all over bar the shouting; and in the event, there was quite a bit of shouting. For this became a rather bad-tempered match, with a degree of audience participation; at least one of HKFC’s players appeared to goad the home crowd with unsavoury hand gestures and some ostentatious celebration after away goals. Amid all this, the seeming certainty of a Tai Po victory in Division 1 has been postponed, with HKFC now only three points behind the leaders with two games to play.
Photo: Tai Po Football Club’s official fans club (Facebook)