The semi-finals of the traditional Senior Shield were staged – as usual – during this year’s Christmas holidays. Kitchee and Tai Po both advance to the final after claiming victories in their respective matches at Mong Kok Stadium.
On Sunday, December 23rd, Kitchee beat Eastern 3-1 as Lucas Silva, Li Ngai-hoi and Jared Lum powered the club into the final for the second time in the last three years. Their opening goal came eight minutes after kickoff, when Lucas picked up the half-clearance and thrusted through two defenders, before lobbing the ball above Yapp Hung-fai. However, last year’s finalists Eastern responded right away. A cross from Jaimes Mckee found Lam Ka-wai unmarked in the box, who easily spoiled former teammate Wang Zhenpeng’s shutout effort, making it 1-1.
While it was still an even game, the Bluewaves took the lead once again just five minutes into the second half. Li picked up his first ever goal in top flight football, heading in from the far post following Fernando’s corner. After that, Eastern appeared to fall apart and started giving Kitchee much more space in the midfield. Lum completed the scoring with a wide open net waiting for him, after Yapp lost his position. Everton Camargo had the best chances for Eastern in the second half, but failed to convert any of them into goals. As a result, Kitchee, who were eliminated by Yuen Long in last year’s semifinal, will once again compete for the first silverware of the season, following their last Senior Shield title in 2017.
In the other semifinal on Christmas Day, December 25th, Tai Po eliminated R&F 3-1, with tallies from their Brazilian attacking duo Igor Sartori and Michel Lugo, as well as Lee Ka-yiu.
Both teams were equally aggressive in quest of the game opener, though either side missed the finishing touch. Lam Zhi-gin had the closest chance for R&F, but his effort from six yards was denied by Tsang Man-fai. The Greens came up with a quick counter attack, though Chan Siu-kwan could not beat goalkeeper Zhou Yuchen. Not long after, the Guangzhou-based club had to play with 10 men, when the already-booked Tan Chun-lok was sent off after knocking down Sartori in the 32nd minute.
The match was even more dramatic after the restart. R&F had their first chance after Itaparica had been brought down in the box, but Tsang Man-fai saved Tiago de Leonço’s penalty shot. Nonetheless, Fuli took a 0-1 lead, thanks to an effort by Bai He from close range. The Greens responded almost immediately, with a penalty going their way. Substitute Harrison Sawyer was pulled down by Tse Ka-keung, and then Sartori made no mistake from the spot. Tai Po then took the lead for good in the 67th minute, when Michel Lugo’s effort easily beat Zhou following a terrific through pass by Sawyer. Despite the game remaining tight, R&F had to open up to press for an equalizer, which Tai Po eventually exploited. It was Lee Ka-yiu who rounded up the Greens’ victory in added time.
The two finalists, Kitchee and Tai Po, will be playing for the 117th edition of the Senior Shield on January 26th at Hong Kong Stadium. This will be the third consecutive cup final between these two sides, following last season’s Sapling Cup and FA Cup finals at the same venue.
Kitchee 3:1 Eastern (December 23rd 4:00pm, Mong Kok Stadium; Attendance: 2466)
Tai Po 3:1 R&F (December 25th 4:00pm, Mong Kok Stadium; Attendance: 1933)
Photo gallery by Zinc Yeung