Heavyweight Kitchee add the Premier-League title into their display cabinet for the second year in row, after beating Eastern 2-0 in the season finale on Sunday, May 23rd, at Hong Kong Stadium. Dejan Damjanović showed his scoring ability once again by netting twice in the “winners-take-all” showdown. The magnitude of the match attracted the season-high attendance of 7,802 paid spectators.
Dominating the league for many years now, the Bluewaves earned their fifth title in the last seven seasons. The championship also brings them to represent Hong Kong again in the Asian Champions League. Runners-up Eastern will keep their berth in the AFC Cup as their consolation prize.
Entering into the match, both teams have accumulated identical points of 37 – with records of 11 wins, 4 draws and 2 losses. However, Kitchee held an advantage with a better head-to-head record of one win and one draw in the previous two meetings. Hence, a draw would be good enough for them to lift the trophy.
Desperate for the win, Eastern spent the early portion of first half pressing. Nonetheless, Kitchee were totally well-prepared to deny the archrivals. The best chance for Lee Chi-kin’s troop came in the eighth minute, when Lucas Da Silva stole Kitchee’s errant pass at the edge of the box. The Brazilian’s power shot, however, was deflected by Paolo César to go out of bound.
Momentum shifted in favor of the defending champs, who regained possession after the water break. Alex Chu’s men took a 1-0 lead in the final added minute, thanks to a quick counter-attack. A long clearance from Raúl Baena directed to league top-scorer Damjanovic. He ran the ball into the box before releasing a left-foot shot to beat Yapp Hung-fai.
While needing two goals to turn the game around, Eastern added offensive power early in the second half by entering Chung Wai-keung and Everton Camargo. But before the newcomers had anything to show for, the Bluewaves secured the match midway through with the second goal from the Montenegrin, who made no mistake on Manu Gavilan’s supply.
Kitchee’s addition of midfielder Baena from Spain and Damjanović in mid-February was one of the crucial factors in club success, especially the latter. His transition from the K-League to local football was smooth and successful. He totaled 17 goals in 14 matches, which will earn him the top scorer of the year.