In Group A, Pegasus’ new Brazilians impressed in their 4:2 win over Rangers, whilst Kitchee and Lee Man ended in a goalless draw again. Meanwhile, in Group B, 10-men Happy Valley held Southern to a 0:0 draw on Wednesday. However, on Sunday it was filled with goals, as Happy Valley slaughtered Resources Capital with a 6:1 win with hattricks from Robert Odu and Mikael. A thrilling 3:3 draw between Eastern and Southern, including 3 late goals, sent Eastern and Happy Valley to the semi-finals of the Sapling Cup.
On Wednesday night at Mong Kok Stadium, both teams were keen for the 3 points to progress from group B, both Happy Valley and Southern went offensively right from the start. Led by their captain Sasaki Shu, Southern saw the better side of the first half, but To Chun-kiu was in great form to deny them. Sasaki Shu first saw his 30 yards freekick got brilliantly parried away, before Stefen Perriera headed wide from Toby Down’s cross. Happy Valley came closest when Lam Lok-yin was picked by Poon Pui-hin with a cut-back pass, but the attempt was saved by Choy Tsz-to and cleared off the line by Toby Down. Returning from the break, Southern continued to threaten mostly through dead balls, while Beto’s aerobic effort hit the bar, Kowase Kota also could not divert his header goalward. The match grew increasingly heated with a total of 10 yellows given by the referee, the team in Green went a man down at the 79th minute. Jahan Khan was shown his second yellow from excessive complaints, forcing Happy Valley to go defensive, but the Aberdeeners failed to capitalise on the extra man advantage in the remaining time. In the closing minutes, Robert Odu sent an effort skiing over the goal to end the game with a disappointing goalless draw.
In the first actions at Aberdeen Sports Ground since its closure for reconstruction last season, Pegasus had all their four new Brazilian players in the squad for the first time against Rangers, with Junior Goziano and Nilson making the starting. Junior Goziano made a strong impression upon his arrival, netting a first-half brace, first by slotting home following a corner after just 7 minutes and then heading in directly from Sun Ming-him’s corner 5 minutes later. Nilson added on the score in the 29th, tapping in at close range from Fong Pak-lun’s header to give Pegasus a 3:0 lead at half-time. Lam Hok-hei pulled one back for Rangers at 67’ by heading in Lam Ka-wai’s cross but Ng Man-hei’s first-ever professional goal with 9 minutes remaining restored Pegasus’ 2-goal lead. Kilama played upfront in search of more goals and headed in at the far post in the 87th minute to make it 4:2.
Over at Tsing Yi on Saturday evening was the top of the table clash in group A where Kitchee met Lee Man. Lee Man started off brightly and mainly threatened through Givanilton on the left, whilst Kitchee was mostly restricted to long-range attempts. The Bees came closest in the first half when Marcus Cheung found the crossbar, after an exchange with Tang Hong-yin. The men in yellow hit the crossbar again in the second, when Wong Chun-ho turned past 3 defenders before unleashing a left-footed shot hitting the woodwork. Wang Zhenpang reacted quickly to push Givanilton’s subsequent rebound shot over the bar. Lee Man’s robust defence also kept the Bluewaves at bay and could hardly find the target in the second half.
Back to group B on Sunday at Hammer Hill Road, Happy Valley’s Nigerian duo’s first start together were too hot to handle by the Resources Capital defence. Razaq Abegbite had a header finding the crossbar after 12 minutes, while Mikael also missed the target one yard out later on. The score was finally open in the 24th minute when Mikael scored from the spot after a handball was penalised. Robert Odu hit the crossbar two minutes later and had another goalward header tipped over by Lam Chun-kit, but he finally found the back of the net at 40′, when he chested down a cross and made a neat one-two with Lam Hin-ting before slotting it home. Robert Odu made it 3:0 for the team in Green when he sent a diving header from Jerry Lam’s cross home just before the half time whistle. Five minutes into the second half, Luciano headed into the net from a freekick but it was ruled offside. The fourth goal still came 5 minutes later, when Mikael turned his defender inside the box before sending it to the far post. Robert Odu completed his hattrick 4 minutes later at 59’ through a header from a corner. Mikael also netted a hattrick in the 70th minute with a direct freekick. Carles Tena crawled one back for Resources Capital in the extra time to end the score at 6:1 to Happy Valley.
The final game of the weekend was an even match between Eastern and Southern at Mong Kok. Southern had the slight upper hand in the first half, but it was Lucas who broke the deadlock with a powerful shot at the edge of the box in the 37th minute. Although Sasaki Shu sent the ball home just a minute later it was ruled offside. The Aberdeener’s first equaliser came 8 minutes into the second half, when Sasaki Shu leveled the game with a penalty after a handball. Sandro put the Blues ahead again when he dribbled past 3 defenders before slotting into the near post at 70’. Beto equalised for Southern at 89’ with a beautiful volley inside the box. The score did not just end there, while Diego Eli poked in from close range at 90+1’, Stefan Antonic’s debut goal at 90+4’ ensured the teams shared a point.
Besides the remaining group A fixture between Rangers and Lee Man on Wednesday, the final round of Sapling Group stage will continue on the second and third day of 2021. 10 points from the first 5 rounds sent Eastern and Happy Valley clear on top in Group B to the semi-final. Kitchee leads Group A with 9 points from 5 games, while Lee Man stands in second with 8 points from 4 rounds. Lee Man will be through to the semi-final if they take all 3 points from pointless Rangers on Wednesday. Kitchee and Pegasus will go head-to-head for the final group fixture in January.
Happy Valley 0:0 Southern (Nov 11th 8pm, Mong Kok Stadium, Attendance: 463)
Pegasus 4:2 Rangers (Nov 14th 3pm, Aberdeen Sports Ground, Attendance: 134)
Kitchee 0:0 Lee Man (Nov 14th 5:30pm, Tsing Yi Sports Ground, Attendance: 654)
Resources Capital 1:6 Happy Valley (Nov 15th 3pm, Hammer Hill Road Sports Ground, Attendance: 464)
Eastern 3:3 Southern (Nov 15th 5:30pm, Mong Kok Stadium, Attendance: 754)