League

Tai Po face major challenges, and league favourites started strong

The wait is at last over! The 2019-20 Hong Kong Premier League got underway Friday, August 30th, when Kitchee hosted Happy Valley at Mong Kok Stadium. The former routed the newly-promoted side 5-0, getting goals from five different players.

Starting from the kickoff whistle, the Bluewaves have been aggressive, under the instructions of coach Blaz Sliskovic. Hence, the historic Happy Valley, making their first appearance in Premier-League era, were forced to play in their own half most of the time.

Just past a quarter of an hour, Manuel Bleda gave the hosts a 1-0 lead, slotting home 15 yards away from a cross by Clement Benhaddouche. Lucas Silva easily made it a two-goal lead at the 28-minute mark from close range. The Brazilian almost added on again moments later but barely missed the target. Cleiton, formerly with Yuen Long last season, was arguably the best player on the pitch in his debut and increased Kitchee’s advantage to three goals before half-time.

Three minutes after switching sides, Igor Miovic fouled on Lucas in the box, forcing referee Tam Ping-wun to award the spot-kick to the home side. Fernando consequently converted it with no mistake. Another Brazilian, Wellingsson Souza, substituting in the second half, rounded up the lopsided win with a spectacular header on Lucas’ cross to the middle.

Three days before the contest, Krisztian Vadocz decided to terminate his contract with Kitchee. The fans of Bluewaves gave him a hearted farewell with long applause at the 32nd minute of the match. The former Hungarian international used to wear no. 32 in part of the last three seasons in Hong Kong.

Six teams got their season underway on the following day. At Tai Po Sports Ground, the reigning champions Tai Po faced the runners-up R&F, who earned three points with a 4-1 victory. The Greens could have been the first to register a goal but Sandro and his new forward partner, Kim Min-ki, both squandered some good opportunities. The visiting team broke the scoreless tie seven minutes before the end of the first half as Tiago de Leonço handled a clear-cut chance inside the box to beat Felix Luk. Although Sandro equalized, however, three minutes later with a penalty kick, R&F’s second of the day by Giovane da Silva’s header in the 57th minute broke up Tai Po’s defense. Lam Zhi-gin and Leung Nok-hang also scored afterward to secure their win.

Later in the evening, Eastern traveled to Yuen Long Stadium to face the Tangerines. They needed two late goals to rally for a 1-2 victory. On paper, the former were stronger between the two clubs, but Yuen Long put on a good show for the spectators in stands. The first half was fast-paced and filled with plenty of close calls. Nonetheless, it was kept scoreless for 70 minutes thanks to excellent goalkeeping on both ends. Yapp Hung Fai was first to surrender as Yuen Long’s Tsang Tsz-hin slotted home from close range with an assist from Walter Soares. Yuen Long looked poised to upset their opposition, until they conceded the equalizer to Clayton Afonso, whose header at six yards went to back of the net. Jean Moser’s goal against his former team gave Eastern all the reasons to celebrate with just two minutes remaining in regulation time.

Southern beat Rangers 3-1 at Mong Kok Stadium in the last fixture of the day. James Ha scored two within three minutes for the home side, giving the Aberdeeners an encouraging beginning of the new season at their new home. Chan Kwong-ho also put his name of the scoresheet with seven minutes left in the second half to expand the lead to 3-0 for the Aberdeeners. However, Tse Tak-him lost a shutout in the stoppage time as Au Yeung Yiu-chung got a consolation goal for the dejected visitors, who returned to the Premier League after last year’s absence.

In the only fixture on Sunday, Lee Man and Pegasus, two disappointing sides of last season, collided at Sham Shui Po Sports Ground. A hat-trick by Michael N’dri fueled the Bees for a convincing 4-2 triumph in front of their home crowd. The Flying Horsemen were first to score midway through the first half, however. Their new striker, Charles Lokolingoy, found the net with a superb side volley. Trailing first, the Bees woke up and responded 10 minutes later, thanks to Fernando Recio’s tally from a sharp angle following a corner of their own. N’dri switched on the machine just before the conclusion of the first-half as the French slotted home with a volley. In the 56th minute, he tapped in few yards from the goal line. And he completed the hat trick on a rebound in the stoppage time. In between, Marcos Gondra’s superb volley just inside the box gave hope to Pegasus for a possible late rally, but Lee Man has tightened up in the back to avoid further damage. After the first week, there was no upset on the scoreboard. The next round of the league will be staged during the weekend of the 14th September, following Hong Kong national team’s home and away matches of the World Cup qualifiers.

 

Match Results

Kitchee 5:0 Happy Valley (August 30th, 8:00pm, Mongkok Stadium; attendance: 2,772)

Tai Po 1:4 R&F (August 31st, 2:30pm, Tai Po Sports Ground; attendance: 969)

Yuen Long 1:2 Eastern (August 31st, 5:30pm, Yuen Long Stadium; attendance: 791)

Southern 3:1 Rangers (August 31st, 8:00pm, Mongkok Stadium; attendance: 667)

Lee Man 4:2 Pegasus (September 1st, 2:30pm, Sham Shui Po Sports Ground; attendance: 991)

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