It went to a penalty shootout for R&F to beat Taipo on Sunday, March 22nd, in gaining their spot in the FA Cup final against Eastern. Igor Satori’s second-half strike looked almost certain to send them through before Dudu’s dramatic header at the final touch of regular time took the game to extra time. Michel Lugo’s fine strike gave Taipo the lead but was later cancelled out by Tiago Leonco’s header. It was then Zhou Yuchen the hero of the afternoon by denying Chan Man-fai’s spot-kick to send R&F to their first-ever cup final in their club history.
The first half saw little real threatening chance from either side. R&F mainly relied on long balls in finding Igor Satori or Giovane on the sides, whilst the Greens’ backline stood tall to head away most crosses. Serge Deble came in from the sidelines to poke the ball home at 25’, however, the goal was correctly ruled offside. As Taipo grew into the game, Kim Minki forced two saves from Zhou Yuchen, but their closest opportunity fell to Nakamura Yuto, when a loose ball fell to him in front of the goal, as he turned around to shoot, Zhou Yuchen threw himself big to block.
The second half started as R&F pressed on, with Taipo stacking their men at the back to block any attempt and waited for counter-attack opportunities. At 58’, a passing error in the midfield allowed Serge Deble to drive down the right, after a one-two with Giovane, Deble sent a looping effort past Felix Luk, only to be denied by Sun Ming-him who arrived just in time to clear off the line. R&F finally got their goal in the 67th, even though Giovane saw his close-range effort blocked by Felix Luk, Igor Satori was there to send the rebound to the back of the net to make it 1:0.
While Kim Minki was left alone upfront for most of the second half, Taipo reacted to the goal by putting Michel Lugo on 5 minutes later and being more attacking. The substitution worked as the Greens regained dominance and got into the box more often. While there were several penalty claims, the Greens failed to produce the final product. R&F put two defenders on in the closing minutes hoping to defend their lead, while Taipo earned several corners and throw-ins. The equaliser came from a throw-in in the sixth additional minute, Lugo rose to head to the crossbar before captain Dudu’s subsequent header went into the net to send the game to AET.
Into the extra time, Kim Seung-yong sent a brilliant through ball past the offside trap to Michel Lugo, who then sent a wonderful inch-perfect shot in off the far post to give Taipo the lead at 98’. With both Giovane and Serge Deble subbed off in regulation, extra time substitute Leonaco came on and became R&F’s main threat. He first saw his powerful effort denied by Felix Luk, and at 107’ he met Bai He’s cross with his head to level the scores again. Although both sides made all four substitutions by 102’, there was an interesting change 10 minutes later when the 4th official came on for the referee. No further changes were allowed, even though Kim Seung-yong was injured for the second half of the extra time, forcing Taipo to sit back and wait for penalties. Zhou Yuchen blocked Chan Man-fai’s attempt, whilst everyone else scored, sending R&F to the final with a 7:5 win.
R&F will face Eastern in the FA Cup Final, currently still scheduled on May 31st. As the Government announced the closure of sports facilities effective from March 23rd, any further arrangement of local football matches will be discussed by the HKFA Board this coming week.