Since last month, the top-flight football has been played in a closed-door environment at Jockey Club Hong Kong Football Association Training Center. However, that has been changed on Saturday, March 7th, as the first of two matches of the FA Cup preliminary round was scheduled at Tseung Kwan O Sports Ground, after the government agreed to open the same and only venue for closed-door competitions. Match reports by Patrick Au Yeung and Christie Leung
Despite the atmosphere being close to none – only cheers originated from a few fans outside the premises, it was an exciting match with plenty of goals. Eastern earned a lopsided win of 2-8 to eliminate Rangers after 90 minutes of play. Tai Po also advanced after beating Lee Man in the penalty shootouts.
The game outcome was decided in the early stage when Eastern quickly turned a goalless tie to a three-goal lead in just nine minutes. On the other hand, Rangers failed to duplicate their top form when they upset Lee Man in the last Sapling Cup match. Sandro opened the floodgate with his right-foot effort at the 10-minute mark. An own goal from Leandro Basan then gave the oppositions a 0-2 advantage. And just a few moments later, Lucas’s first goal with Eastern, a 20-yard strike provided his club a comfortable cushion for the rest of the afternoon.
Nonetheless, Rangers managed to cut the deficit on their first shot on target. Cesar Leguizamon from Paraguay received a corner at the far post and beat Yapp Hung-fai on a tight-angle header. Eastern restored the three-goal margin thanks to Chan Haowei, who beat Lo Siu-kei in the box without much of effort. Before the end of the first half, Stefan Pereira would have given Ranger’s slim chance of rally, had he not missed the penalty, which was put away by Yapp.
After half-time, there was no sign of seeing the troop of Lee Chi-kin slows down. Lucas slotted home an empty netter on a rebound for his second of the night before Diego Eli found the net with his fourth on the season. The Rangers defense suffered another lapse of concentration at the business end of the contest, allowing the substitute Wong Wai to score easily. He added another goal during the stoppage time after Rangers were rewarded a late consolation, as Pereira put his name on the board on a breakaway.
With Tai Po advancing to the quarterfinal, the FA Cup remains the last straw for the reigning champion to obtain a championship this season.
Only 50 seconds into the game, Kim Minki sliced in Eugene Mbome’s cross with a header to open the score. Jonatan Acosta picked up Cheng Siu-kwan with a pin-point cross, who made no mistake to slot it past the keeper to equalise for the Bees. The Greens responded quickly in the next attack, with Dudu tapping in at goalmouth from a freekick. As the rain poured on, the teams struggled in creating real chances afterward. Lee Man made it 2:2 before the end of the first half, as Michael N’dri made no mistake from the spot after Givanilton was fouled by Toby Down at the inner edge of the box.
Returning from the break, Lee Man saw their chances denied by Alex Palalei while Tai Po mainly relied on dead balls to threaten. Eugene Mbome was shown his second yellow with 7 minutes remaining in the regular time. Lee Man attempted to find the winner with the extra man advantage, with Michael N’dri saw his closest attempt tipped over by Alex Palalei. The match seemed all destined for the shootout, and Felix Luk gained his return from an injury layoff at 120+1’ especially for the penalties. Luk justified his substitution by blocking Leong Ka-hang and Michael N’dri’s kicks and sent Tai Po to the next round of the FA Cup.
The quarter-finals will start from next Thursday with Yuen Long vs Pegasus, R&F vs Happy Valley on Friday. Eastern will face Kitchee on Sunday, and Tai Po will face Southern on Monday, all behind closed doors at Tseung Kwan O at 2:30 pm with free live streams provided.