Eastern take down nine-men Southern


Eastern returned from the international break with their first home league win on November 17th at Mong Kok Stadium in front of a crowd of 1,117 people, thanks to a Lee Chi-ho goal. The loss came especially costly to Southern, as they had two players coming off injured and received two red cards.

Eastern started without both of their goalscorers in the last outing, Michel Lugo and Jaime McKee, with the latter given a rest while his national teammate Xu Deshuai started only on the bench. Southern’s wing wizard Wellingsson de Souza was suspended, with Diego Garrido taking over his foreign quota in the starting XI. Their backup keeper Li Yat-chun also returned to the match day squad, following a 9-month suspension over failing a doping test last season.

Just before the game kicked off, Manuel Bleda received his award as the October MVP with three goals in three matches since his return from injury. His crucial presence was noticed by Southern too, as he quickly became the main target for tackling attempts. The first half was an exhausting back and forth in the midfield with many fouls on both sides, and after a while the fierceness started to escalate. Eastern had their best opportunities initiated through their dead ball specialist Vitor Saba. Manual Bleda came closest with a header straight to Tse Tak-him at the 14th minute. Southern was most active down the left, as Paul Ngue saw his volley from a Chan Kong-pan cross blocked by Leung Chun-pong at the 26th minute. At the 31th minute, Shay Spitz crossed from the left, the ball went over Eastern’s defender Jo Tae-keun and fell to Marcos de la Espada, whose close-range volley was quickly turned away by Lee Chi-ho. Just before the half-time whistle, Vitor Saba’s attempt flew past the goalmouth without any blue shirt providing the extra touch.

Xu Deshuai came on for Lam Hok-hei for the second half, as Eastern looked for all three points. However, it was Southern who got the better chances. At the 57th minute, Paul Ngue received the ball in the box, but failed to take control before it was cleared. As time went by, Che Runqiu replaced Sham Kwok-fai to provide a fresh pair of legs down Southern’s right side, while Michel Lugo also replaced Vitor Saba in search for a goal. At the 69th minute, Marcos de La Espada limped off the pitch with an ankle injury, with Carlos Rodriguez as his successor. In several heated exchanges and fouls between both teams, substitutes Xu Deshuai and Michel Lugo both tried their luck directly from a free kick, but could not get past Tse Tak-him. Later on, Ricky Cheng made his 3rd substitution to take off Michael Luk and bring in Lau Hok-ming instead.

Eastern eventually broke the deadlock in the 78th minute as Lee Chi-ho scored from close range after a Xu Deshuai corner.  Soon after, Carles Martinez fell awkwardly after a Leung Chun-pong foul near the kick-off spot, indicating a serious knee injury. Southern’s captain Leung Tsz-chun received his second yellow during the argument that followed. With the new injury and all substitutions being used, Southern were down to just nine men for the last ten minutes. Eastern decided to slow things down a bit, but Southern was not particularly satisfied with these time wasting efforts, leading to arguments on the bench and forcing the referee Tong Kui-sum to calm down staff and players on several occasions. When he signaled the match to restart from a throw-in, Wong Tsz-ho was again in no hurry. Suddenly, Michael Luk jumped off the bench and pushed Wong from the back, seeing a straight red for the incidence. Luk could even face longer suspension, as he was captured showing a middle-finger to Eastern fans before he walked down the tunnel. Meanwhile, Eastern put on 36-year-old defender Ng Wai-chiu for Lo Kong-wai, forming a five-man defensive line to see out the last minutes.

Eastern climbed up to seventh place of the table with six points in six matches, while Southern retained their fourth place with nine points in seven matches.

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