The 12th round of the Hong Kong Premier League offered more intriguing matchups, with tight races at both ends of the table. After the weekend, first-placed R&F are one week closer to the trophy, while Hoi King and Lee Man remain in relegation trouble.
After beating Eastern last weekend, Southern extended their winning streak with a 3-1 victory over Lee Man at home. Despite the Bees looking for a strong start, striker Michael N’dri missed a couple of chances to take the lead. That came to haunt Lee Man when the Aberdeeners benefitted from the opposition’s mistake to open the floodgate. Marko Krasic stole the ball off defender Chan Ming-kong, who miscued on the clearance, and easily put his team in front. The 1-0 lead expanded to two goals right before the break, after Lau Hok-Ming tallied his first of the season. Wellingsson de Souza completed the rout in the second half, while the Bees found their consolation from Fong Pak-lun five minutes into stoppage time.
Simultaneously at Tai Po Sports Ground, the Greens completed a rally to cap a 2-1 win over Eastern. Just two minutes into the contest, the visitors converted their first chance into a one-goal lead following a free kick. Clayton Afonso met the cross from Robson Shimabuku to beat Tsang Man-fai with a header. Some close calls were created by either side, although a better finish would have been needed to accomplish the scoring. After the break, the Greens scored two in a span of four minutes. Michel Lugo was awarded with an equalizer, after his left-foot effort beat Yapp Hung-fai just several yards away from the net. A powerful header from Eduardo Praes proved to be the winner, after being set up by an Igor Sartori corner.
Later in the evening, at Mong Kok Stadium, Kitchee visited Pegasus to beat them 0-3 in order to stay alive in the title race. The first part of the game was evenly matched, but once Lucas Silva, who was connected with a through pass by Krisztian Vadócz, scored on a breakaway, the floodgate has opened for the reigning champions. They added their second before the break, when Lucas, on another breakaway, made a pass to Ju Yingzhi for an empty-netter. Kitchee’s last goal of the night came minutes after half-time. Fernando sent a long cross to the far side, where Cheung Kwok-ming’s attempted clearance was intercepted by Clement Benhaddouche, who tabbed in from close range for his first goal in the Premier League. The Flying Horsemen, who barely produced enough good chances, were awarded with a penalty after Law Tsz-chun’s hand ball in the box was penalized by the referee. However, Pegasus top-scorer Travis Major failed to beat Wang Zhenpeng on the spot, and hence, the Flying Horsemen remained scoreless for the rest of the game.
On Sunday afternoon, last-placed Hoi King continued their woes by losing 1-4 to visiting Dreams at Sham Shui Po Sports Ground. Nonetheless, they took the lead just two minutes into the game. Kim Min-Ki was knocked down by the Dreams goalkeeper in the box, and Chris Annan converted the resulting penalty kick. However, their advantage lasted only for a minute, when Chan Wai-ho beat Paulo Cesar at the goal mouth. Despite the visitors bombarding in numerous occasions, Paulo Cesar saved his club from further damage. Unfortunately, Hoi King’s meltdown began with only four minutes remaining. Paulo Cesar first saved Marcos Gondra’s penalty kick, but it was impossible for him to stop Nacho Martinez on the rebound. The damage did not end there for Hoi King. Ze Victor furiously argued with the referee that the scorer was illegally in the penalty box before the initial kick was made. Consequently, he received his second booking of the day for an early shower. Dreams eventually took advantage of an extra man to tally a couple more in added time, one from Pang Chiu-Yin and other from Jonatan Acosta.
The last fixture of the week was staged at Yuen Long Stadium, where the well-travelled R&F edged out Yuen Long by a 0-1 victory thanks to Lo Kwan-yee’s tally in the second half. Looking to regain the pole position, the Guangzhou-based team were seen as favorites to beat the Tangerines, but Kenneth Kwok’s men were motivated to put up a good fight. The visitors almost found the game opener with a corner at the 37th-minute mark. Tiago de Leonco’s header nearly found the net, but was denied by Law Chun-ting on the goal line. R&F had to wait until the 68th minute for the match winner. Giovane da Silva sent a cross from right for Leonco, who headed forward for Lo to unleash a terrific effort into the top left corner. R&F could have expanded their lead later on, but Leonço was stopped by Chan Ka-ho and Itaparica was denied by the crossbar. In the end, he marginal win was good enough for them to collect three points, while Yuen Long suffered their second consecutive defeat. With their away win, R&F return to pole position with 26 points, two more than the surging Southern and three ahead of Tai Po, who remain in third. Kitchee move up to fourth for now, surpassing Eastern by two points. Pegasus and Dreams follow close behind. Yuen Long drop to bottom third with 11 points, while Lee Man and Hoi King occupy the last two places, with six and four points respectively.
Southern 3:1 Lee Man (February 23rd, 2:30pm, Aberdeen Sports Ground; Attendance: 358)
Tai Po 2:1 Eastern (February 23rd, 2:30pm, Tai Po Sports Ground; Attendance: 1213)
Pegasus 0:3 Kitchee (February 23rd, 5:30pm, Mongkok Stadium; Attendance: 1278)
Hoi King 1:4 Dreams (February 24th, 2:30pm, Sham Shui Po Sports Ground; Attendance: 650)
Yuen Long 0:1 R&F (February 24th, 5:30pm, Yuen Long Stadium; Attendance: 970)
Photo gallery by Zinc Yeung