Marking the return of a short winter break, the 9th round of the Hong Kong Premier League kicked off last weekend, not only offering spectators the sight of Diego Forlan, but also some unexpected results. Tai Po and R&F will only be in action one week later, as their fixture has been rescheduled to January 28th. The offside.hk team provides you a round-up of all the action.
PEGASUS 2-2 YUEN LONG
(Match report by Ben Bennett)
Yuen Long came from two goals down with less than ten minutes left to grab a crucial point in their quest to avoid relegation whilst halting Pegasus’ title challenge in front of 671 fans at Hong Kong Stadium on Friday evening, January 12th. Starting with new signing Nikola Komazec in an advanced left wing position, and Eugene Mbome dropping into an unfamiliar centre-back role, Pegasus started brighter and the Serbian new boy sent over a dangerous free kick after just six minutes that Joao Emir misjudged to head well wide. Chances in the first half were at a premium, but Pegasus took the lead on 38 minutes with the dangerous Komazec unleashing a 25-yard drive that Yuen Long keeper Chan Ka-ho could only parry onto the crossbar, leaving Travis Major an open goal to tap into for the Australian’s tenth goal of the season.
Yuen Long began to gain more of a foothold in the second half and could have drawn level within five minutes, as Walter Soares Jr. tested the reflexes of Yuen Ho-chun with an improvised overhead kick. The Tangerines continued to press forward and Lau Ho-Lam drove down the left and saw his effort miraculously handed onto the underside of the bar and out of danger by the home keeper, whilst substitute Yiu Ho-Ming blazed over when well placed following terrific work by Everton Carmago.
Then came the sucker punch, as Pegasus stole an undeserved second goal through playmaker Joao Emir. The Brazilian swung over a corner from the right that went directly in via the palms of the away goalkeeper, who will be very unhappy to have conceded in such a manner. Travis Major should have sealed the game with a free header, but he somehow nodded wide when it seemed harder to miss, and his team would pay a heavy price for not putting the game to bed. First, Everton Carmago drilled in via a Fong Pak-lun deflection with six minutes to go and in the fifth minute of injury time they grabbed an equaliser as 40-year-old Fabio Lopes sent over a cross from the right that flashed across the box and in stole Ticao to bundle an equaliser at the back post.
Considering their second half performance, Yuen Long will be wondering how they find themselves in the penultimate position of the Hong Kong Premier League, whilst Pegasus drop points in their quest to catch Kitchee at the top of the league. Next up for Pegasus is a home game against Southern, and Yuen Long are away to R&F.
DATE AND TIME: Friday, 12th January, 5:30pm
STADIUM: Hong Kong Stadium
EASTERN 2-0 RANGERS
(Match report by Patrick Au Yeung)
On Saturday, January 13th, Eastern earned three points in their league fixture against Rangers at Mong Kok Stadium as Manuel Bleda and Jaimes McKee scored late for a 2-0 victory. In the 66th minute, Bleda received a through-pass at the edge of the six yard box, turned around and fired a shot that beat goalkeeper Wong Tse-Yeung for the match opener. McKee headed in the insurance goal from a corner provided by Vitor Saba. Prior to the opening goal, bottom-of-the-league Rangers struggled, but were still able to draw level with the hosts, although they hardly found ways to really threaten Yapp Hung-fai, with Chuck Yiu-Kwok working all by himself as striker. Eastern’s chances were also quite limited, and they had to rely on set pieces to find ways to tally. The closest ones were Lee Chi-ho’s two headers, which just missed the net in either occasion. A crowd of 1,208 finally had a chance to see Eastern’s newly-signed Yusuke Igawa, the former Kawasaki Frontale defender, who made his league debut by substituting for Clayton Afonso in the 76th minute.
DATE AND TIME: Saturday, 13th January, 5:30pm
STADIUM: Mong Kok Stadium
KITCHEE 2-2 SOUTHERN DISTRICT
(Match report by Patrick Au Yeung)
On Sunday, the hosts Kitchee scored twice in the second half to draw level with Southern District for a 2-2 tie, which keeps their unbeaten record of the season intact. It was the Aberdeeners who struck first, with effective counter-attacks in a match dominated by the hosts. With 12 minutes into the game, they took a 1-0 lead, courtesy of an own-goal by Nando Recio. Striker Marcos de la Espada doubled the club’s lead 14 minutes later, when his left-foot shot easily beat Wang Zhenpeng. Top-of-the-table Kitchee continued to create a lot of clear-cut chances, but Southern’s 22-year-old goalkeeper Li Yat-chun denied them all.
It was until six minutes after half time before the Bluewaves finally found a way around Li to cut the deficit in half. A long ball by Fernando was tailor-made for Sandro, who easily headed in the first goal. An increasing offensive pressure helped finding the equalizer 15 minutes later. Alex Akande drew a free kick following a foul by Philip Chan Siu-Kwan at the edge of the penalty box, from where Jared Lum fired a terrific shot that passed over a five-men wall to beat the diving Li. While the game remained deadlocked with two minutes left, Diego Forlan, the 2010 World Cup Golden Boot winner, made his debut for Kitchee – and Hong Kong football at large – as the last substitute to replace Fernando. The attending crowd of 3,203 people enthusiastically applauded for his long-awaited entry. However, he could not help his team for a rally, as both clubs eventually settled with a draw. After that game, Kitchee remain in the pole position, leading second-placed Pegasus by three points. They will entertain Eastern on Thursday night, January 18th, at Mong Kok Stadium.
DATE AND TIME: Sunday, 14th January, 5:30pm
STADIUM: Mong Kok Stadium
LEE MAN 1-0 DREAMS
(Match report by Zinc Yeung)
Lee Man and Dreams met for the second time in a row after the first round of the FA cup. Same as in the last match, Lee Man were victorious thanks to a goal by Denis Lima in the first minute. Dreams had a few chances later, but were unable to take away a point in their first match of 2018.
Lee Man took advantage of Dreams’ lack of concentration to open the score line after just one minute. A through ball found Stefan Pereira in the box, but the Brazilian’s effort was blocked by Tse Ka-wing. The ball fell to Denis Lima who hit it into the bottom right corner, giving Lee Man the early lead. After falling behind, Dreams were more active and also gained more possession. However, their passes in the final third were not connecting well and their crosses were poorly executed and easily saved by Lee Man goalkeeper Felix Luk. Meanwhile, the Bees had a chance to extend their lead just before half time, but Stefan Pereira’s curling shot from outside the box was well saved by Tse.
The second half was more of the same, with Dreams claiming more possession. They also had a number of chances to equalise. In the 60th minute, Nacho Martinez’ effort was saved twice by Luk. Five minutes later, captain Chan Wai-ho scored with a header, following a corner, but his goal was overruled by the referee who saw a foul by a Dream’s player.
On the other end of the pitch, Lee Man had a chance to extend their lead in the 89th minute, when Stefan Pereira’s through ball found Yu Puk-hong, but his shot was blocked by the Dreams defence just in time. As a result, Lee Man’s third league win of the season allow them to climb to the sixth position in the Premier League while Dreams remain in third.
DATE AND TIME: Sunday, 14th January, 2:30pm
STADIUM: Tseung Kwan O Sports Ground