The Hong Kong Premier League action resumed on Wednesday, November 21st, at Mong Kok Stadium, when Kitchee hosted R&F in a rescheduled game from September, when typhoon Mangkhut wrecked the fixtures schedule. The visitors from Guangzhou came out as winners of the night, beating the reigning champions 3-1 to earn their first win against Kitchee in club history, courtesy of goals by Leung Nok-hang and Itaparica. It was a forgettable night for the home team who saw their unbeaten streak of 31 league games come to an end.
This mid-week contest was equally important for either side as three points would have moved the winners to third position in the table. Hence, both teams put their best players on the field, however, the hosts did not start key midfielder Huang Yang, who just completed his successful duty with the Hong Kong national team at the EAFF qualifiers in Taipei. On the other side, Giovane da Silva returned to the R&F lineup after recovering from injury.
From the beginning, the visiting side appeared to have the upper hand by organizing some quick attacks, with Giovane da Silva and Tiago de Leonco creating some troubles up front. They were soon rewarded via a set piece in the 24th minute, when Leung Nok-hang put Itaparica’s free kick into the net for the 0-1 lead.
However, Kitchee erased the deficit not long after, with Lucas Silva scoring his sixth goal of the season on a counter-attack, initiated by Krisztian Vadocz. The assist came from Fernando on the left, who fed Lucas with a perfect ball.
In the 58th minute, Itaparica gave the Guangzhou-based team the lead for the second time of the night. His direct free-kick from the edge of the box curved over a five-man wall and went in despite a touch by goalkeeper Wang Zhenpeng.
R&F even went ahead 3-1 with 14 minutes remaining to finish off the reigning champions. They made the most out of a corner following Fernando’s errant back pass to Wang Zhenpeng. Centre-back Leung Nok-hang out-jumped everyone at the far post to complete his two-goal effort with a brilliant header.
Fernando had a couple of chances to redeem himself. His left-foot strike required Zhou Yuchen to make a quick save – then Lucas could not benefit from the rebound. In another attempt, the Brazilian winger deflected Zhou’s goal kick and almost found the empty net.
The visitors also slightly edged out the Bluewaves in the yellow-card department by receiving three bookings in the first half, while Kitchee got two warnings from referee Yu Kin-fung during the entire match, which was witnessed by 1,557 people.
With the win, R&F have now 12 points, just one point behind Eastern and Southern. Kitchee, however, remain fifth in the table, sharing the same points with Tai Po, who are sixth due to their weaker goal difference. This also means that Kitchee are already four points behind title rivals Eastern. The latter, however, still have a game in hand, which will be against Hoi King. So Kitchee may soon find themselves chasing a 7-point-gap.
Alex Chu would like to put his team back on track and kick off another winning streak when they encounter Pegasus on November 30th. But first, they have to deal with Southern in the Sapling Cup group opener this coming Sunday, November 25th, at Hammer Hill Road Sports Ground.
Photo gallery by Zinc Yeung