With only 5 rounds remaining after the latest round of fixtures, the pressure was on for Eastern, South China and Kitchee at the top and Rangers and Wong Tai Sin at the bottom to deliver in what was a hugely entertaining weekend of football.
Saturday’s lone fixture saw Dreams hosting Eastern, with the visitors looking to put last week’s disappointing goalless draw with Pegasus behind them and edge closer to claiming their fifth league championship.
On Sunday, Wong Tai Sin welcomed Southern to Hammer Hill Sports Ground as the Templemen set out to claw their way off the bottom of the table, and later in the day Kitchee faced Rangers in a match of significant importance for both sides.
A rare Monday evening fixture at Tseung Kwan O rounded off the weekend games as South China and Pegasus locked horns, with the Caroliners also hoping to make some ground on league leaders Eastern. Matt Worth, Jeff Hardbattle and Aaron Au round up the action.
DREAMS 0:4 EASTERN
(Match report by Jeff Hardbattle)
(Eastern goalscorers: Afonso 17′; Lugo 52′, 90′; Naegelein 88′)
After the disappointment of last week’s goalless draw away to Pegasus, Eastern came back with a bang on Saturday afternoon and demonstrated a level of dominance that Dreams simply had no answer for as the blues came out as worthy 4:0 winners.
Dreams boss Lee Chi Kin will be particularly unhappy with the fact that their opponent’s first three goals came from set pieces, the first from a Xu Deshuai free kick that was nodded in by Clayton Afonso, with the former also bagging an assist for the second goal as Michel Lugo headed home from his corner kick, and the third was finished off by Andy Naegelein after goalkeeper Pang Tsz Kin could only parry away a Giovane free kick attempt on goal.
Eastern rounded off the afternoon in style in the final minute of normal time, after some excellent footwork from Michel Lugo afforded him the space to get a low shot away that Pang Tsz Kin was unable to reach, sealing the victory for Chan Yuen Ting’s side.
It could have been more for the visitors as Giovane had earlier missed a goalmouth sitter on the twenty minute mark, though Dreams did have a chance cleared off the line by Affonso Junior from a Pablo Gallardo header when the score was still 1:0.
In truth, Eastern were in complete control throughout the entire 90 minutes, showing both tactical awareness and an abundance of confidence, which was clearly reflected by the 1:17 corner statistics. Chan Yuen Ting’s perfect match plan included a tactic of tightly pressing their opponents that made it impossible for Dreams to roll out the match from the back.
DATE AND TIME: 2:30pm, Saturday 27th February, 2016
STADIUM: Sham Shui Po Sports Ground
WONG TAI SIN 2:1 SOUTHERN
(Match report by Aaron Au)
(Wong Tai Sin goalscorers: Everton Camargo 84’; Aender Naves Mesquita 89’)
(Southern goalscorers: Tomas Maronesi 45+1’)
Wong Tai Sin earned their first win of the 2015/16 Hong Kong Premier League season after two goals in the last 10 minutes of the game against Southern at Hammer Hill Sports Ground, sparking wild celebrations with their fans in the stadium.
Although Southern had only around 40% of the possession, they had 15 shots throughout the 90 minutes. In injury time of the first half, Chan Cham Hei whipped in a corner that found Tomas Maronesi, and the Brazilian managed to head the ball into the lower right corner. Wong Tai Sin goalkeeper Cheung King Wah was helpless and watched it cross the line to make it 1:0 to the visitors.
In the second half, Southern did have chances to increase their lead, and in the 49th minute, a Chan Cham Hei cross on the left side found Paul Olivier Ngue who headed the ball against the post, and Jonathan Carril was unable to pick up the rebound before it was cleared.
Southern hit the woodwork again in the 55th minute, when Luk Chi Ho took a free-kick near the corner flag only for the ball to come back off the bar again. One minute later, Nakamura picked up a through pass and dribbled into the box, but he could only hit the side of the net.
In the 84th minute, Chiu Chun Kit intercepted the ball near the half-way line and passed to Liu Pui Fung, who expertly guided the ball past two defenders and found Everton Camargo. With only Tse Tak Him to beat, the striker made no mistake and rolled the ball into the back of the net to level the scores.
And five minutes later, substitute Aender Naves Mesquita got his head on the end of a cross from Yeung Chi Lun that sent the ball whizzing into the net to make it 2:1 to Wong Tai Sin, who secured their first victory of the season. They still remain bottom due to Rangers having a better head-to-head record, but have pulled Yuen Long back into the relegation battle as well. Southern remain in 5th place.
DATE AND TIME: 2:30pm, Sunday 28th February, 2016
STADIUM: Hammer Hill Sports Ground
KITCHEE 2:1 RANGERS
(Match report by Matt Worth)
(Kitchee goalscorers: Rufino (PEN) 16′; Akande 81′)
(Rangers goalscorers: Correa Da Luz 70′)
For the second home game in succession, Kitchee ground out an unconvincing victory over seemingly weaker opposition with the aid of a penalty and a substantial slice of good fortune, as a tame Alex Akande header, spilled over his own line by Rangers goalkeeper Paulo Cesar, was enough to give Kitchee the decisive advantage in the 81st minute after their opponents had been reduced to ten men.
The game’s opening stages were terse and compact, with both teams playing a high line and compressing the midfield. Kitchee broke the mould, however, to take the lead on 16 minutes, their defence dropping deep to allow a sucker-punch counter-attack. A deft through ball from Matt Lam opened up the Rangers defence and Rufino, setting himself to shoot, was tripped in the area. The Spanish striker converted the penalty himself for his fourth goal since joining in January.
The sky blues went on to dominate possession for much of the match, but often struggled to convert this into meaningful goal threat. The pace of Fernando on either wing caused occasional problems for Rangers, as did Rufino with his strength and tireless running in the channels. The sense, however, is that Kitchee have yet to fully integrate the new centre-forward into their game, and he does not offer the aerial supremacy that made Juan Belencoso such an easy outlet for the team.
For their part, Rangers presented little real menace. The enterprising Hui Ka Lok did break Kitchee’s offside trap on occasion, winning a free kick for which home keeper Wang Zhenpeng could have been sent off shortly before the break, then going close with a rising drive. Mostly the visitors toiled, but on 71 minutes came a breakthrough that threatened to punish Kitchee once again for failing to kill off a match. A curling free kick from the right saw defender Mauricio Correa Da Luz evade his marker and nod home from close range to even the scores.
Mauricio was almost immediately – before the game had so much as restarted – evicted from the field of play for a second bookable offence. It was not, however, to be their fortuitous numerical advantage that brought the home side victory, but rather Paulo Cesar’s unfortunate gaffe. Akande’s header from near the penalty spot was firm but hardly unstoppable, yet the hapless Brazilian allowed the ball to squirm over his left shoulder and drop weakly into the net.
DATE AND TIME: 5:30pm, Sunday 28th February, 2016
STADIUM: Mong Kok Stadium
SOUTH CHINA 0:2 PEGASUS
(Match report by Matt Worth)
(Pegasus goalscorers: Fong Pak Lun 45′; Mckee 69′)
Sunday’s victory over Rangers saw last year’s champions Kitchee move into second place on goal difference. The pressure was on rivals South China to reassert their grip on the number two spot. Instead they surrendered it with a disappointing home defeat to Pegasus, who move into fourth ahead of fading Dreams.
South China had the lion’s share of the possession in this match but a pacy and energetic Pegasus applied pressure where it counted, and created more chances than their hosts. It took until moments before the interval for their breakthrough to arrive. The Carolienrs failed to deal with a long throw on their left side, with Bojan Malisic culpable for a poor clearance. The initiative was handed to Pegasus winger Dhiego Martins who thoroughly bamboozled his marker. His cross was scuffed by the luckless Malisic into the path of Fong Pak Lun, who finished at the near post with a well-directed flick.
The game was effectively settled with just over twenty minutes to go by the reliable Jaimes McKee. Tan Chun Lok’s right wing cross was high and hopeful, and even when McKee rose high above his marker at the far post there seemed little threat. The Pegasus forward’s downward header however appeared to totally wrong-foot Cristian Mora in the home goal and the visitors doubled their lead. It only remained for HK international Lam Hok Hei – without a Premier League goal this season – to miss South China’s best chance of the game, heading over from seven yards after good work from Chan Siu Ki to set up. The match finished in a 2:0 victory for the visitors, who creep into the top 4 for the first time in 2016, whilst the Caroliners slip to third and seemingly out of the title race.
DATE AND TIME: 8pm, Monday 29th February, 2016
STADIUM: Tseung Kwan O Sports Ground
BOCG LIFE HONG KONG PREMIER LEAGUE TABLE (29/2/2016)
|Team||Game||Win||Draw||Loss||Goal Gain||Goal Loss||Goal Diff||Point|
|9||Wong Tai Sin||11||1||3||7||8||17||-9||6|