Kitchee bagged the first silverware of the season as they claimed this year’s Senior Shield, marking the seventh win of the prestigious tournament in the club’s history. In the end it was an own goal from Tai Po that made the difference, allowing Kitchee to narrowly defeat their opponents 3-2 on Saturday, January 26th. The entertaining match was witnessed by 3,399 spectators at Hong Kong Stadium.
The two sides exchanged a total of five goals in a highly competitive final, starting with the Bluewaves’ first tally 16 minutes into the game. A corner from Ju Yingzhi reached the other end of the post, where Matt Lam set it up for Lucas Silva. The Tai Po defenders failed to clear the ball, with newly signed defender Matt Smith taking advantage in the six-yard box and scoring the first goal for his new club.
However, Tai Po reacted quickly and within ten minutes the score was once again even. Lee Ka-ho sent a cross over teammate Harrison Sawyer, but Chan Siu-kwan was behind to fire the ball past Wang Zhenpeng.
Nonetheless, Kitchee took the lead once more in injury time, with Fernando’s left-footed free kick from the edge of the penalty area finding its way into the goal. However, the shot should have been easily dealt with by Tsang Man-fai.
The second half started with a disallowed goal for Michel Lugo, who nonetheless soon authored Tai Po’s second equalizer. The Brazilian found the back of the net from close range after being set up perfectly by Igor Sartori.
At that point, the match was even, with both sides having their fair number of chances. It was not until the 75th minute that Kitchee scored the decisive goal, courtesy of a Tai Po mistake. Ju Yingzhi’s free-kick found its way into the six-yard area, where Fung Hing-wa failed to clear the ball and instead sent it past fellow goalkeeper Tsang for an unfortunate own-goal.
Although it was the fourth consecutive time that Kitchee beat Tai Po in a cup final, the latter were determined to overturn the losing fate. They came up with at least two good chances in the early stage, and with a bit of luck on their side, the scoreline of the night could have been a different one. The biggest miss of the day belonged to Eduardo Praes, whose header in added time could have sent the game into extra time, but it was not meant to be. In the end, Tai Po coach Lee Chi-kin was forced to use center-back Jean-Jacques Kilama as forward, but Kitchee maintained the lead until the final whistle.
With that, Kitchee hoisted the Shield for the second time in three years. With the seventh Senior Shield win in the club’s history, they also moved past defunct Sing Tao, and are now ranked fourth behind Seiko, Eastern and South China in total number of wins.
Ahead of the ACL qualifiers, Kitchee are still struggling to field their best starting XI, as Huang Yang and Josip Tadic are both injured, and Nando Recio not fit to start. Midway through the first half of the Senior Shield final, Jared Lum had to be subbed off due to an eye injury. In the end, Alex Chu’s men performed just well enough to collect the first major title of the year.