A third team claims the top spot of the table after 3 rounds of the league in the tightest ever title race. Kitchee receives a huge boost to their champion chase after a thrilling 3:2 win over fellow title contender R&F. Meanwhile glories are even at the bottom half of the table as Southern drew Happy Valley. This story is reported by Patrick Au Yeung and Christie Leung
Southern returned to action after two days’ rest with 5 changes to their starting from the disappointing Sapling Cup final. Happy Valley rotated their young squad with Ng Ka-yeung, Poon Pui-hin and Jahan Khan keeping their places, players who have started to make their names since the restart. The team in Green almost opened the score very early on, when Chu Wai-kwan hit the crossbar 5 yards away from goal, after receiving a perfectly placed low ball by Poon Pui-hin. The Aberdeeners dominated afterward, but efforts from Lam Ho-lam and Beto went wide. Happy Valley took the surprise lead two minutes before the half-time whistle through Chu Wai-kwan, who was sent through one-on-one by Ng Ka-yeung. Chu dribbled round Tse Tak-him but saw his initial attempt blocked by Beto at the near post, but Chu got back on his feet and tucked the rebound home ahead of the defenders.
Soon after the break, Sasaki Shu supplied two great chances to James Ha, who first saw his close-range shot denied by Chung Wai-ho and then also had a diving header goal ruled offside within a few minutes. The on-form Japanese then equalised himself at the 65th minute, with a direct corner kick curling in the net after Chung Wai-ho missed it. Sasaki almost gained his second, when Chung Wai-ho’s clearance fell straight to him at 35 yards but his chipping attempt to the empty goal went wide. In the 84th, Chu Wai-kwan also had his chance doubling his scoring, but his shot from 6 yards was deflected wide. In the closing minute, Sasaki Shu’s header from James Ha’s cross found the crossbar, while this secured Happy Valley’s first point since the restart.
Then, Kitchee’s chance of winning the Premier League title improved after defeating R&F on the road by a score of 3-2, on October 1st at Tseung Kwan O Sports Ground. Wellingsson de Souza tallied the decider in the 80th minute to help the Bluewaves earn three important points to lead the table.
Both sides played in conservative mode, fearing to be the first team to fall behind. Therefore, clear-cut chances were at a premium from the beginning, and many technical fouls have slowed down game rhythm considerably.
Nonetheless, the visitors benefitted from a goalkeeper’s mistake for the opener in the 17th minute. Souza fired a shot in the box, which went under and behind Zhou Yuchen near the goal line. Coming from behind, Law Tsz-chun slotted home easily for his first goal of the season.
They added on ten minutes after on a penalty, after Sean Tse committed a handball when Manu Gavilán shot on an empty net. The left-back earned an automatic ejection as a result. And the Spaniard converted the spot-kick for Kitchee’s two-goal lead.
In the second half, the Bluewaves continued to take a one-man advantage, resulting in better possession. However, they failed to widen the margin while wasting some opportunities.
Instead, R&F found ways to even the score midway through the half. First, Serge Deblé blocked Helio’s clearance near Kitchee’s penalty area and centered a pass to Giovane, who beat Wang Zhenpeng to cut the deficit to half. The Brazilian equalized nine minutes later with his second of the day after receiving a terrific through from Igor Sartori.
Seeing their lead vanish in a short time, Kitchee pressed harder to regain the lead. The game-winning goal belonged to Souza, who banged in within the penalty area, following a terrific cross coming from the left side. R&F were shut down for the remainder of the game, including a four-minute stoppage time.
With the win, the side of Alex Chu move to pole position after collecting 16 points in eight games, one more than second-place Eastern and two more than R&F.
With 2 rounds remaining and all teams have finally played the same number of games, Kitchee came out at the top with a crucial win over R&F, whilst Eastern followed with one point short, and R&F at 3rd.
Happy Valley 1:1 Southern (Sep 30th 3pm, Tseung Kwan O Sports Ground, behind closed doors)
R&F 2:3 Kitchee (Oct 1st 3pm, Tseung Kwan O Sports Ground, behind closed doors)
R&F v. Kitchee
Southern v. Happy Valley