Last season’s Sapling Cup winners Tai Po took on newly-formed Dreams FC in the third game of the new Hong Kong Premier League season at Tsing Yi Sports Ground. Both sides were keen to get the season underway, with Tai Po aiming for the top three and Dreams expected to struggle in their inaugural year in Hong Kong’s top flight. Adrian Kwong was there to sum up the action.
Tai Po lined up with 3-5-2 formation, with captain Wong Wai and new Brazilian striker Igor Sartori charged with leading the line. Nakamura acted as playmaker and withdrawn striker, flanked by Sean Tze and Tan Chun-lok. Leung Kwun-cheung and Chak Ting-fung featured as wingbacks, with Dudu in the heart of defense alongside Russell and Praes. Li Hon-Ho started in goal for the Greens.
Dreams opted for a 3-4-3 formation, led by former South China player Chan Wai-Ho, alongside Pablo Jose Gallardo and Wong Chi-Chung in the defense. Lam Hin-ting, Yoon Dong-hun, Leung Kwok-wai and Lui Man-tik made up the midfield, and Spanish centre-forward Arkaitz Ruiz and Li Ka-Chun slotted in front of Nacho Martínez in attack.
Despite neighborhood requests to ban drums and other cheering apparatus in the stadium, the atmosphere grew significantly between the two sets of fans as the game wore on. Dreams had an early chance right at the off, but could only find the side netting. Tai Po’s Nakamura had a shot on the seven minute mark from outside the box, but put the ball wide of the left post.
Tai Po began to dominate possession in midfield, peppering the Dreams goal for the next ten minutes to no avail, with Dreams pressing well happy and seemingly content to break on the counter when the opportunity arose. Tai Po almost broke the deadlock from a corner, with Wong Wai smashing a shot towards the far corner only to see it blocked by the keeper.
Tai Po’s persistance paid off in the 25 minute, after Igor Sartori’s corner was met superbly by Praes Eduardo who headed into the bottom left-hand corner to put the Greens 1-0 up.
Dreams came close to equalizing with a free kick outside the box on the 38th minute, with a floating cross that somehow missed everyone in the box and ended up falling harmlessly out of play.
Tai Po received a blow on the cusp of half time as Igor Sartori was stretchered off injured. At the time of writing, the extent of his injury remains to be seen. He was replaced by ex-Pegasus forward Dhiego Martins.
Tai Po continue to dominate possession and continued to have the majority of the chances after the restart, but received a controversial red card with half an hour to go, as Tse Ting-fung was judged to have interfered with a quick Dreams throw-in.
Dreams began asserting themselves after the sending-off, testing Li Hong-Ho in goal as Tai Po struggled to hold on to their slender lead. The home side’s pressure finally proved too much, however, in the 82nd minute as, during a scramble in the box, Nacho Martínez’s shot came off the post and Ruiz pounced on the loose ball to prod home the equalizer. Neither side failed to trouble the scorers in the remaining minutes, and the game ended all square between the teams.
Tai Po take on Eastern at Mongkok Stadium next on September 9th, while Dreams will face their toughest test yet when they meet champions Kitchee also at Mongkok Stadium on September 10th.