After a mere rest of two weeks, the new 2020-2021 season kicked off with group stage games of the Sapling Cup, as all eight Premier League teams got into action on 24 and 25 October 2020.
It all began with a Group B fixture on Saturday, October 24, at Mong Kok Stadium, where last year’s runners-up Southern tangled with Resources Capital Football Club (RCFC), who made their debut in top-flight football. Despite a two-goal effort from Felipe Sá, RCFC came up short at the end, as the Aberdeeners notched a 3-2 victory with Roberto Fronza’s goal in stoppage time. The visiting RCFC made history by scoring their first goal in Premier League just five minutes into the game, as Sá slotted home on a rebound after Choy Tsz-to failed to handle a shot from Yue Tze-nam. After a disappointing first-half, Southern entered Fronza to increase power up front. The result was obvious as they scored twice in a span of seven minutes. Chan Kwong-ho first equalized with a header at the far post on a terrific cross from Paco Chan in the 50th minute. He then found his second goal with a pass from Stefan Pereira for a 2-1 lead. However, RCFC evened the score in the 64th minute when a shot from Wong Wai-kwok 20 yards away was tipped by Choy, but the ball hit the crossbar to fall in front of the goal for Sá to tab home from close range. When the game seemed to end with a handshake, Southern converted a match winner two minutes into added time, when Jordon Brown failed to clear the long throw in the box and Fronza picked up the loose ball for an easy finish to give his team all three points.
In the other Group B match happening at Siu Sai Wan Sports Ground, Happy Valley stunned Eastern with a 1-2 victory, courtesy of late goals from Yip Chuek-man and Luciano to complete the rally. Both teams struggled to find the opener in the first half, despite several opportunities. Everton Camargo of Eastern was denied by To Chun-kiu’s terrific save, while at the other end, Chu Wai-kwan’s shot in the six-yard box aimed directly at Tsang Man-fai. The deadlock was broken with ten minutes remaining in regular time. Sandro deflected Everton’s corner into the net, giving the Blues a 1-0 advantage. Happy Valley also found their tying goal from a corner, which went across the net before reaching the unmarked Yip, who easily headed home. Luciano became the game hero as his heading effort beat the goalkeeper after receiving the assist from Mikael.
On the following day, Lee Man created the most lopsided victory of the weekend, as they hammered the hosting Pegasus with a 5-0 win. The Group A game might have a different outcome, had new Flying Horseman Kessi converted the spot-kick just a couple of minutes into the match. Nonetheless, the Bees opened the floodgate to score five goals in the span of 18 minutes. Chang Hei-yin put his name on the scoreboard with an easy finish in front of the goal, before Jonatan Acosta added two more within a minute apart from each other. Then, Leong Ka-hang tallied on a breakaway, while Tang Hong-yin completed the rout with a terrific shot from just outside the penalty area.
At last, Kitchee began the title-defending journey at Yuen Long Stadium with a Group A matchup. As expected, the hosts made no mistake to handle Rangers for an easy 3-0 finish, thanks to Matthew Orr’s hat-trick. The Bluewaves established a one-goal lead just six minutes into the game. Orr picked up a back header from Chan Shinichi in the box to beat Lo Siu-kei. In the 31st minute, Jean-Jacques Kilama made a terrible mistake as his soft back-pass to the goalkeeper was intercepted by Orr, who was brought down by Lo to give Kitchee a penalty. The 23-year old converted it flawlessly. He then completed the three-goal effort midway through the second half on a cross from Clément Benhaddouche, after Kilama, standing in front of Orr, failed to clear at the near post.
After the first week of action, Kitchee and Lee Man lead Group A with three points each, while Southern and Happy Valley take pole positions in Group B. Eastern and RCFC are set to face off on Wednesday, October 29, at Mong Kok Stadium as the group stage continues.