On a hazy Saturday afternoon, Rangers hosted their first game on home soil, but no luck was to be found at Sham Shui Po Sports Ground, where they succumbed to a humble 3-0 defeat. Instead, Tai Po proved once again that they might be finally ready for a top-three finish.
Due to injuries, Tai Po had to make do without the likes of Dhiego Martins, Dudu, Sean Tse, Fung Hing-wa and Lee Ka-yiu, but at least Igor Sartori found his way back into the team right on time. Given the players at his disposal, Lee Chi-kin decided again on a 3-5-2 formation, with Sartori and Yuen Chun-sing up front, while Yuto Nakamura and Wong Wai were given the the creative freedom in the midfield.
Dejan Antonic’s Rangers followed a more conservative approach, with a back-four and no foreign striker, instead using the quota for centre-backs Igor Miovic and Michel Clayton, goalkeeper Oleksii Shliakotin, and midfielder Marko Krasic. Nevertheless, it is worth to mention that the team was sporting again their beautifully designed Kelme home kits.
Tai Po started well into the game, but Sartori’s shot attempts didn’t pose any serious problems to Shliakotin. Interestingly, it was Rangers who had more of the game in the first half and tried to surprise the guests with counter-attacks, at least whenever Tommy Chuck Yiu-kwok was involved. “MK Kwok” was almost omnipresent and often fell back to direct his teammates from the midfield. However, after around 25 minutes the initially high tempo started to die off, and expected throw-ins occasionally turned into prolonged drinking breaks. Consequently, the referee added five minutes of stoppage time and Tai Po made the most of it, when Yuen Chun-sing nodded the ball into the goal following a precise cross from right wing-black Chan Hiu-fung, giving the guests a 1-0 lead at half time.
Although Rangers manager Philip Lee was giving passionate advice to his coaching staff, Rangers didn’t manage to come up with a new plan in the dressing room and found themselves in serious troubles to keep a more and more confident Tai Po squad in check. The Greens could finally resort to what they do best: high pressing in the midfield and fast counter-attacks, so it didn’t took too long when Sartori scored his debut goal in the 50th minute with a strike from just outside the box. Rangers tried hard to find into the game, but Tai Po remained well organized in the midfield. This was also shown in the 80th minute, when Tan Chun-lok initiated the third goal, winning the ball in the midfield and sending it immediately to Sartori. This time the Brazilian decided to give it back to Wong Wai who just had to smash it into the back of the net. Coincidentally, Wong Wai had even more to celebrate, as the day of the match, September 17th, also marked his 25th birthday.
Tai Po coach Lee Chi-kin used the opportunity of the comfortable lead to bring in two young local players for the last 20 minutes, Chiu Siu-wai and Leung Sing-yiu. In the end, the result humbled the hosts, as they succumbed to a deserved 0-3 defeat. Meanwhile, after three rounds, Tai Po share the same amount of points with Kitchee and Pegasus, but for some reasons the HKFA currently ranks them third as only the other two teams have had a direct match so far.
The Premier League will take a short break next weekend, due to both Community Cup and the first round of the Senior Shield. On September 30th, Tai Po will travel to Tseung Kwan O to take on Lee Man, while Rangers will host Yuen Long at Sham Shui Po on October 1st, which will probably already be something like a relegation six-pointer.
Tai Po goal scorers: Yuen Chun-sing (45’+5′), Sartori (50′), Wong Wai (81′)