Rangers secured their Premier League survival on Saturday afternoon after narrowly beating Pegasus 3:2 at Kowloon Bay Park, in a match that could have gone either way but ultimately saw Wong Tai Sin relegated to the First Division.
A topsy-turvy 90 minutes saw Rangers, knowing that only a victory would save them, taking a 2:0 lead in the first half to put them in a strong position only to be pegged back by a young and talented Pegasus side in the second half to restore parity at 2:2. The home side rallied and took a huge step towards avoiding relegation after their lead was restored mid-way through the second half, but were thrown a huge lifeline after a second penalty awarded to Pegasus (to the dismay of club director Phillip Lee) was not converted. The Gers clung on to dear life to preserve their lead, and – barely, just barely – will live to see another day in Hong Kong’s top flight.
The result also means that Wong Tai Sin will be playing First Division football next year, despite a number of solid home displays and having only lost once at home all season to eventual champions Eastern. In fact, had the HKFA decided to adopt a goal difference system to decide league positions rather than the current head-to-head record (a system rarely used worldwide), it would be Rangers and not Wong Tai Sin who would have been demoted.
Prior to the match, Rangers had only won once in the Premier League all season, in what turned out to be a vital 2:1 victory over their relegation rivals Wong Tai Sin. Yet while they have had huge issues at the back, they have shown good attacking intent of late and continued in this regard in this match.
Indeed, it only took 8 minutes for Yan Lik Kin’s men to strike the first blow, after Ernesto Gomez’s cross into the box was met by 26-year-old French forward Quentin Lendresse who guided the ball into the back of the net to give his side the perfect start.
Rangers continued to press and were rewarded for their attacking intent on the 26th minute, after a long ball forward was picked up by Chuck Yiu Kwong who beat the keeper, allowing the Hong Kong international striker to slot home to make it look as though the task of beating the drop might be easier than expected with the scores now at 2:0.
Yet Pegasus, who have upcoming cup finals in both the FA and Sapling Cup, are not a side to be taken lightly and were back in the game just before the end of the first half. Joao Emir Porto Pereira stepped up to let loose from a free kick that had been awarded just outside the 18-yard-box, and with the help of a big deflection off the Rangers wall, reduced the deficit to 2:1.
Rangers looked rattled and began the second half in timid fashion, and disaster struck seven minutes after the restart after Pegasus were awarded a penalty for a foul in the box. Montenegrin striker Admir Adrovic made no mistake to score his tenth Premier League goal of the season and level the scores at 2:2.
The home side to their credit, knowing that they would be relegated if the scoreline remained the same, managed to regroup and restore their lead on the 65 minute mark, after fabulous work from Gomez saw him work his way into the box from the right hand side to unleash a shot that cannoned back off the bar into the path of the lurking Lendresse. The Frenchman did not waste the opportunity, and Rangers were back in front.
Yet there was still more drama to be had and ten minutes from time, Pegasus were awarded a second penalty. An incensed Phillip Lee, Rangers Club Director, could not hide his astonishment at the decision and made his feelings well known to the officials throughout the remainder of the match. Luckily for him and his club, Adrovic’s spot kick clattered against the post, allowing Rangers to cling onto their 3:2 advantage.
Pegasus pressed up the park, but were unable to breach the back line again, and at the sound of the final whistle, the jubilant celebrations began. Rangers have looked down and out for almost the whole season, but somehow…somehow, they survive.
(Rangers goalscorers: Lendresse 8′, 65′; Chuck Yiu Kwok 26′)
(Pegasus goalscorers: Joao Emir 41′; Adrovic (PEN) 57′)
DATE: 7th May, 2016
STADIUM: Kowloon Bay Park