League

Title chase heats up as Kitchee beat R&F

Photo: HKFA

Another exciting round went by on March 16th and 17th, as the top-four shuffle their places once again in the Hong Kong Premier League. Kitchee’s win against R&F kept them in the title race, while both Tai Po and Southern benefited from the defeat of the Guangzhou team to climb above them in the table. Relegation threatened Lee Man savaged a point at Yuen Long after they were down to ten man early in the match, and Eastern finally could celebrate their first league win in two months. Zinc Yeung with the round-up of this memorable weekend.

The match of the week saw Kitchee defeating R&F 2-3 in Guangzhou. Tiago de Leonço had a chance to open the scoreline in the twelfth minute, but his shot was blocked by Wang Zhenpeng. Krisztian Vadocz’s attempt from outside the box two minutes later was well saved by Zhou Yuchen. Nonetheless, the Bluewaves got the lead in the 22nd minute, when Lucas’ pass found Fernando in a counter attack, and the Brazilian winger calmly placed the ball past Zhou.

The current Premier League champions extended their lead 12 minutes into the second half, when Ju Yingzhi got past Roberto Affonso to blast the ball into the top of the net. However, a brace in just thre minutes from Giovane da Silva leveled the score for R&F. The naturalized forward beat Wang Zhenpeng after Matt Smith failed to clear the ball in the 65th minute. The Australian defender protested that he was pushed by da Silva, but the referee let the goal stand. Three minutes later, Giovane da Silva’s close range shot after a corner equalized for R&F. But Kitchee got their lead back in the 73rd minute when Fernando’s cross found Lucas unmarked who scored the crucial winner for the Bluewaves. The three points keep Kitchee in the title race, while R&F lost their position as first contenders.

Meanwhile, title aspirants Southern managed a win over Dreams. The Aberdeeners had a couple of chances, but Roberto Fronza’s header in the 12th minute was saved by To Chun-kiu. Not long after, Nacho Martinez’ shot was blocked by Lau Hok-ming, while Marko Krasic’s close range header went wide in the 36th minute. Eventually, the first half ended with neither side being able to open the scoreline.

Nonetheless, Southern remained in control of the second half. James Ha’s shot in the 73rd minute went over the bar. One  minute later, Dhiego Martins’s cross fell again to James Ha whose shot was initially blocked and Michael Luk’s follow-up went wide eventually. Southern finally broke the deadlock in the 85th minute, when the Dreams defense failed to clear Michael Luk’s corner which eventually fell to Wellingsson de Souza who headed in from close range, winning the match for the Aberdeeners.

On Saturday evening, Tai Po came from behind to beat Pegasus 2-1. Despite playing 120 minutes on Wednesday in the successful AFC Cup qualifying match against Ryomyong, Tai Po appeared mentally unaffected and remained active during the match. The Greens had a chance early on, with Dudu’s header going just above the bar. However, the Flying Horsemen took the lead in the 25th minute when Law Hiu-chung’s freekick was headed in by Rosen Kolev, which was the first Pegasus goal for the Bulgarian defender. Yuen Chun-sing had another chance later, but his shot went wide. Meanwhile, Igor Satori’s shot in the 44th minute was cleared off the line by Law.

Tai Po had several chances in the second half in an attempt to turn the game around. Michel Lugo had a few opportunities from outside the box but failed to find the target. Igor Satori equalized for the Greens in the 65th minute when the Brazilian forward hit a beautiful shot to the top right corner of the net. Eight minutes later, Lee Ka-ho’s brilliant freekick went past Leung Hing-kit and off the post to complete the comeback for Tai Po. Pegasus had limited chances afterwards and the match ended with the Greens climbing to the top of the league.

On Sunday, March 17th, Eastern ended their win-less run with a comfortable victory over relegation favorite Hoi King. Everton put Eastern up front just six minutes into the match, when Lam Ka-wai’s header set up the Brazilian forward who put the ball past Paulo Cesar. Chris Annan had a chance two minutes later, but his shot was saved by Yapp Hung-fai. In the 38th minute, Everton’s cross found Manuel Bleda whose header went in off the post, giving Eastern a two-goal lead as the first half ended. Eastern further extended their dominance in the second half. Everton’s cross in the 63rd minute found Lam Ka-wai, who set up Lima Pereira to tap the ball into an empty net. Three minutes later, Lee Hong-lim’s cross found Bleda for a close range shot past Paulo Cesar. The Spanish striker completed his hat-trick in the 70th minute when he controlled a Lam Ka-wai shot from outside the box and calmly placed it into the far post. The match ended with a 5-0 win for Eastern.

In the final match of the round, Hoi King’s relegation rivals Lee Man savaged a point at Yuen Long Stadium. The Bees had a great start when Michaël N’dri’s shot went pass Chan Ka-ho just three minutes into the match. However, Lee Man soon after took a blow when Yu Wai-lim, being last man in defense, pulled down Diego Moser and was given a red card. Chan Kwong-ho had a chance to equalize in the 13th  minute. The local winger tried to lob Lee man goalkeeper Pang Tsz-kin, but the ball went over the bar. Nevertheless, the Tangerines leveled the score in the 20th minute, when Kwok Tsz-kaai put in a cross after going past Fong Pak-lun, which was headed in by Diego Moser.

Despite Yuen Long having the advantage in numbers and 70% of the ball, it was the Bees who looked more likely to score shortly after the second half started. N’dri’s header hit the crossbar after a save by Chan Ka-ho. Later in the match, Yuen Long put on Caleb Ekwegwo and Tommy Chuck Yiu-kwok in hope of a win, and they indeed went ahead in the 80th minute, when Fabio Lopes’ cross found Caleb who hit a brilliant volley to put Yuen Long 2-1 in front. But the Tangerines failed to keep their lead until the final whistle. In the 89th minute, Lee Man captain Fran González’ header found Stefan Pereira who equalized for the Bees.

After the 14th round, R&F dropped to third following their loss to Kitchee, while Tai Po claimed the top position. Southern are just one point behind the Greens. Meanwhile Kitchee are fourth at 27 points, just two points less than leaders Tai Po which means there is still a chance for the Bluewaves to defend their Premier League title. On the other end of the table, Hoi King remain at the bottom, although Lee Man are just three points ahead.

Match results

R&F 2:3 Kitchee (March 16th, 2:30pm, Yanzigang Stadium; Attendance: 805)

Southern 1:0 Dreams (March 16th, 2:30pm, Aberdeen Sports Ground; Attendance: 500)

Pegasus 1:2 Tai Po (March 16th, 5:30pm, Mong Kok Stadium; Attendance: 1283)

Hoi King 0:5 Eastern (March 17th, 2:30pm, Sham Shui Po Sports Ground; Attendance: 539)

Yuen Long 2:2 Lee Man (March 17th, 5:30pm, Yuen Long Stadium; Attendance: 713)

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