On Wednesday, June 26th, Kitchee officially wrapped up the 2018-19 campaign with the last AFC Cup Group Stage fixture, hosting North Korean side “April 25” at Mong Kok Stadium. Despite being eliminated from the continental competition last week, they narrowly defeated the opposition by 1-0, with Fernando scoring the lone goal of the night.
From the start, Kitchee played aggressively up front, but the first shot of the game belonged to the visitors. Pak Myongsong’s free kick 25 yards away merely missed the target by inches. Fernando, however, replied for the Bluewaves with a terrific strike over the crossbar. Very active as the game progressed, the Brazilian finally gave his team a 1-0 lead at the 40-minute mark, after converting a pass from Li Ngai-hoi into the eventual game-winner.
An even more exciting match followed after the break. The North Korean side nearly equalized with Rim Cholmin’s header, but Krisztian Vadocz was at the goal line to save the empty go. At the other end, Fernando broke through from midfield on a breakaway, but his shot was denied by excellent goalkeeping.
As the match progressed, April 25 were in control, while Kitchee had to set back and wait for counter-attack opportunities. The former earned a free kick outside the penalty box, and Rim’s shot was about to hit the target, but Guo Jianqiao made a better save to preserve the lead. The Kitchee goalkeeper kept on doing so in the remaining minutes to earn a clean sheet.
Yu Yang, the substitute for Law Tsz-chun, could have added on for Kitchee, if his breakaway shot rolled into the net. Nonetheless, Kitchee hung on to finish the season on a high note, defeating the unbeaten team of the group.
Fernando was selected as the MVP of the night. Taking over the role as striker for the injured Lucas Silva in the AFC Cup journey, he scored six goals in as many matches.
In the other match, Tai Po and Hang Yuan ended with a 1-1 draw in Taipei. Chan Siu-kwan gave the Greens a 1-0 lead in the 24th minute, while Ju Ik-seong’s equalizer at the 65-minute mark gave the hosts their first point of the tournament.
With 15 points, April 25 move on to the next round of the competition. Kitchee finished second with 10 points, two more than their counterparts Tai Po. Taiwan’s Hang Yuen, as expected, ended the group stage at the bottom of the table.