An average of five goals per game was recorded in the league opening weekend, as Pegasus took the top spot with a dominant 4-1 victory over Dreams. Kitchee’s 2-0 win over Lee Man and Eastern’s last minute comeback against R&F also showed who are the ones with the strongest ambitions for the title. Christie Leung offers the round-up of the first week.
The 2018/19 Hong Kong Premier League kicked off when HKFA CEO Mark Sutcliffe hit the ceremonial gong on Friday evening, August 31st. Reigning champions Kitchee proved their qualities in front of goal that separated them from Lee Man. Both teams were obviously not yet in top form and were rather sloppy under the steady rain. It only took eight minutes for Kitchee to open the scoresheet, as Yuen Ho-chun parried away Huang Yang’s shot from just outside the box. But Fernando was quick to get on the rebound and slotted it home to make it 0-1. Out of the few new signings starting for both teams, Lee Man’s Alexandre Talento literally demonstrated some talent with his powerful dribbles through the defense of the Bluewaves, however it was new signing Yuto Nakamura, currently still waiting for his HKSAR passport, who stole the spotlight by doubling Kitchee’s lead at 90+5’.
Pegasus dominated Dreams on Saturday afternoon, September 1st, on a muddy Tsing Yi Sports Ground. The Flying Horsemen were eager to take the lead from the start and were rewarded with a penalty when Walter Júnior was brought down by Lui Man-tik inside the box. João Emir made no mistake from the spot and put it in the back of the net, making it 0-1 at 28’. Dreams reacted quickly just five minutes later, as Diego Higino equalised from a goalmouth scramble following a Chan Wai-ho header after a corner. Just before the half-time whistle, Dreams failed to clear Liu Pui-fung’s cross from the left, and it was Travis Major who got on the end of it and scored from a narrow angle to take the lead again. Dreams dominated after the restart, but could not find any good goal scoring opportunities. At 76’, a long goal kick by Leung Hing-kit found Travis Major, who muscled past two Dreams defenders to score for 1-3. In the closing minutes, just after Leung Kwok-wai had managed to clear Mahama Awal’s attempt off the line, new Japanese striker Shu Sasaki was at the right place to head in the rebound for the final 1-4 score.
Tai Po came back to equalise four times against Yuen Long in the New Territories derby on Sunday afternoon, September 2nd. Yuen Long first took the lead in the eighth minute, when Jean Moser slotted home Cleiton’s cross at the far post. Just two minutes later, Tai Po levelled the game for the first time through Philip Chan, who put in the rebound after Chan Ka-ho’s had saved Wong Wai’s attempt from inside the box. Yuen Long regained the lead again through Chan Kwong-ho only three minutes later, when he chested down a long ball and cleverly lobbed it over Li Hon-ho at 13’. The goals continued in the second half, as Dudu scored Tai Po’s second equaliser at 49’. Yuen Long reacted promptly two minutes later, when a corner found Tomas Maronesi unmarked in the box, who scored to make it 3-2. In the 71th minute, Brazilian forward Igor Sartori sprinted into the box and sent the ball nicely past the goalkeeper. However, when Tai Po failed to clear the ball from a corner at 80’, Yuen Long’s Caleb Ekwegwo converted his chance to sc0re and Yuen Long took back the lead. However, the 4-3 only lasted two minutes as Tai Po’s Michel Lugo scored after receiving a perfect pass from Wong Wai, ensuring that both teams would share the points that day.
Eastern enjoyed a last minute comeback on Sunday afternoon, winning 3-2 over a 10-men R&F side at Hong Kong Stadium. The Guangzhou-based team fielded only four non-local players (including their Mainland players) for the starting line-up. This means that they are on track to fulfill the same standard as regular HKPL clubs, after swooping ten local players in the transfer window. Eastern had the chance to open the score in the 11th minute, when Lam Ka-wai was fouled by Itaparica inside the box. But Everton Camargo’s spot-kick was too central and and easily collected by goalkeeper Chen Zirong. It was instead R&F who broke the deadlock in the 33rd minute, when Leung Nok-hang headed in a corner. Three minutes into the second half, Everton Camargo was set up by Leung Chun-pong just outside the box. The Brazilian then surged into the box and drove the ball past the keeper to make it 1-1. Soon after R&F’s Tiago de Leonco beat Yapp Hung-fai with a 25-yard direct freekick into the top left corner to make it 2-1 at 56’. The turning point of the game came in the 80th minute, when Lo Kwan-yee received his second yellow card after elbowing his former teammate Lam Ka-wai. R&F had to survive the last ten minutes with one man less and at that point they have already made all their substitutions. In addition, new head coach Yeung Ching-kwong was sent into the stands after he had complaint too loudly to the referee. In the 90th minute Everton Camargo dribbled past Lo Kong-wai before passing the ball to substitute Manuel Bleda to level the terms at 2-2. But that was not all. Eastern completed the comeback in injury time, when Chen Zirong parried Cheng King-ho’s long shot right to Eastern defender José Ángel, who sent the ball into the empty net at 90+4’. The Blues’ coaching staff stormed the pitch as if they had won the championship and celebrated their positive start into the new season.
The game between Southern and Hoi King, which was planned for Saturday afternoon, was postponed due to adverse weather conditions and will be rescheduled on Saturday, September 8th, at Aberdeen Sports Ground.
The winners of this round – Pegasus, Kitchee and Eastern – are only separated by one goal each in the table. As two teams have not played yet, Dreams rank last with a -3 goal difference. However, Lee Man were the only side that has yet to score. Of course that was just the first week, so the current ranking offers no indication at all how this season may pan out, but we can expect an exciting, and probably highly contested competition.
Lee Man 0:2 Kitchee (August 31st, 8pm, Tseung Kwan O Sports Ground, Attendance: 1952)
Southern -:- Hoi King (Postponed)
Dreams 1:4 Pegasus (September 1st, 5:30pm, Tsing Yi Sports Ground, Attendance: 702)
Yuen Long 4:4 Tai Po (September 2nd, 2:30pm, Yuen Long Stadium, Attendance: 1174)
Eastern 3:2 R&F (September 2nd, 5:30pm, Hong Kong Stadium, Attendance: 1734)