It was time again for Asia’s oldest inter-cub knockout competition as the quarter-finals went underway on October 27th and 28th. Kitchee and Eastern dispatched Dreams and Lee Man respectively and expectedly advanced. However, Senior Shield title defenders and this season’s dark horses Yuen Long succumbed to a solid R&F side. Lastly, Tai Po also qualified, as an early surprise strike by captain Wong Wai eliminated Southern from the competition.
Blue-clad Eastern welcomed Lee Man to Mong Kok stadium on Saturday, October 27th, to kick off proceedings for the weekend of games. Eastern are currently ascending in the league, as they recorded two wins in their last outings against Dreams and Southern. The first chance fell to Jaimes McKee, who raced into the box and had an attempt from tight angle, which did not trouble opposing keeper Yuen Ho-chun in the slightest. The game slogged on, with no clear-cut chances for either side, until Eastern was awarded a freekick in the 35th minute. Xu Deshui’s cross was flapped at by Yuen Ho-chun, the ball falling to Clayton to strike at goal. Dreams midfielder Ngan Lok-Fung cleared Clayton’s attempt off the line, but could do nothing to prevent Manuel Bleda’s subsequent header.
A defensive mistake in the dying minutes of the first half ensured that Lee Man would enter the break on even footing. Clayton’s misjudged back-pass saw both striker Leong Ka-hang and keeper Yapp Hung-Fai racing for the ball outside the Eastern box. Leong Ka-hang won the duel, with Baek Jihoon racing in from behind to score for the Bees.
Eastern doubled their efforts in the second half, and really should have scored in the 55th minute from a corner. Xu Deshuai crossed for a completely unmarked Robson Vaz Shimabuku, and his powerful strike would have ripped into the net, had Yuen Ho-Chun not parried it off the line. The deadlock continued until the introduction of Everton Camargo. The former Yuen Long hit-man stole the ball in the Lee Man half and took a looping shot at goal. Yuen Ho-chun was miles off his line and could only watch the ball sail into his net. This meant Eastern progressed to the semi-finals, winning 2-1 over the Bees.
Yuen Long and R&F took the stage next on Saturday, clashing at Tsing Yi Sports Ground for the right to progress. Yuen Long are the previous Shield winners and no doubt relished the possibility of more silverware. But R&F struck first, as a Bai He freekick into the box was converted by new signing Sasa Novaković in the 8th minute. Yuen Long immediately attempted to respond, with Cleiton’s pinpoint cross being headed over the goal by Jean moser. Giovane da Silva had a chance to extend R&F’s lead before the whistle, but his header was well saved by Chan Ka-ho, with Sean Tse narrowly missing the follow-up. Fuli led by 1 goal at halftime. The teams emerged for the second half, in what was largely a gritty affair, trading chances until the 82nd minute, when Leung Nok-Hang’s header from a corner was too much for Chan Ka-ho, bringing the score to 2-0 for the Guangzhou side. In the 87th minute, Yuen Long finally got on the scoreboard, but Tse Wai-chun’s goal would only be a consolation for the Tangerines.
Relegation-battling Dreams traveled to Mong Kok Stadium on Sunday afternoon, October 28th, to take on Kitchee. But despite a brave showing from the Black-pink-and-whites, they were undone by goals from Lucas Silva and Krisztian Vadocz. Kitchee unlocked the Dreams defense in the 22nd minute, as Lucas, so often called “the Tank” by fans, ghosted through the back to volley home for the Bluewaves. In the 35th minute, Kim Bongjin nodded the ball back towards the penalty area following a corner, with Vadocz tapping in from the penalty spot.
To make matters worse for the Dreamers, goalkeeper To Chun-kiu was sent back to the dressing room after his foul on Lucas outside the goal area. As a result, backup keeper Leung Man-fai was handed his first league game of the season in the 56th minute. Dreams had an excellent chance to score when they were handed a penalty, but Nacho Martinez’s tame effort to the left was easily read by Wang Zhenpeng. Dreams did get a goal back before the end of the contest though. In the 82nd minute, Shu Kitamura angled a high cross into the Kitchee box, and Marcos Gondra Krug nodded home. But it was too little, too late, and the game finished 2-1 to Kitchee.
On the same day, Southern and Tai Po locked horns again for the last quarter-final at Tsing Yi Sports Ground. In the first league meeting, a highly charged and bad-tempered affair was ultimately won by the Aberdeeners, but this New Territories derby turned out to be a reversal of fortunes, as Wong Wai’s surprise goal at the start of the match meant Southern bowed out of the competition.
Both teams started off bright and lively. Dhiego Martins had a crack at goal in the first minute that sailed just over the crossbar. Tai Po than duly punished Ricky Cheng‘s charges as chaos in the Southern box allowed Philip Chan to backpass for Wong Wai who found the top corner. Tai Po could have been two goals up in the 22nd minute as Lugo headed in Igor Sartori’s freekick, but his effort was deemed offside by the linesman. Momentum seesawed back and forth, but the teams would retire at the break, with the Greens edging ahead 1-0.
The second half saw a game of defensive masterclass from both goalkeepers. Southern keeper Tse Tak-him was superb in denying both Harrison Sawyer’s and Philip Chan’s efforts. His opposite, Tsang Man-fai (who took his place between the sticks in place of Li Hon-ho this round) was also instrumental in keeping waves of Southern counterattacks at bay. Southern centre-back Lau Hok-ming would feel especially unlucky, as he had three goals denied, twice from close range by Tsang Man-fai and the third cannoned off the left upright. The whistle sounded at the end of added time, with the Greens getting their revenge, and moving on to the semi-finals.
Following an annual tradition, the tournament will continue at Christmas. On December 23rd, Kitchee will face Eastern in the first semi-final, and two days later, on December 25th, Tai Po will take on R&F. Both matches will be played at Mong Kok Stadium and are scheduled for kick off at 4 pm.
Eastern 2:1 Lee Man (October 27th, 2:30 pm, Mong Kok Stadium, Attendance: 1,227)
Yuen Long 1:2 R&F (October 27th, 5:30 pm, Tsing Yi Sports Ground, Attendance: 476)
Kitchee 2:1 Dreams (October 28th, 2:30 pm, Mong Kok Stadium, Attendance: 1,207)
Southern 0:1 Tai Po (October 28th, 5:30 pm, Tsing Yi Sports Ground, Attendance: 740)