Hong Kong’s district teams seem to frustrate the reigning champions this season. Following the previous 2-2 draw between Kitchee and Yuen Long, it was Tai Po who managed a similar comeback the last weekend, finishing an exciting round of fixtures.
The 5th round of the Hong Kong Premier League football started in Guangzhou at the Yanzigang Stadium where R&F overcame a spirited Lee Man side 2-1. Faced with a R&F team brimming with talent, Lee Man opted for a counterattacking approach in the first half, with Macao striker Leung Ka-hang striding into the box barely a minute into the game, but he could not get a shot off. R&F began to assert their dominance, peppering Lee Man’s backline from set pieces. Right before halftime, new Fuli signing Sasa Novaković converts from a corner, and R&F return to the locker room 1-0 up.
Shortly after the break, Bai He heads into goal to widen the advantage for the Guangzhou side. Against the run of play and spurred on by the away fans, Lee Man clawed a goal back in the 54th minute. This time Leong Ka-hang scored under pressure to hand his team a 2-1 lifeline.
The visitors created more chances to go level, with Leong’s looping attempt going off target, while Alexandre Talento missed the ball entirely. R&F defender Roberto Affonso Jr. was given his marching orders for a boot to the chest of Stefan Pereira, and black and yellow shirts were swarming the home goal in the dying moments. In the end, it was too little, too late. The whistle blew and R&F took all the spoils from this frenetic affair.
Simultaneously, at sunny Mong Kok Stadium on Saturday, October 20th, Southern took on Eastern in a top-of-the-table clash. Both teams sought to take it to the opposition. Lee Hong-Lim saw his dangerous, pivoted shot cut away, while at the other end, Lau Hok-Ming had a goal disallowed for offside.
Southern went on to waste a plethora of chances, with Krasić and James Ha both coming close to opening the scores. The frustrations were palpable as Krasić second attempt cannoned off the upright, and coach Ricky Cheung must have wondered if this just wasn’t his day. The teams separated at the end of the half all even, at 0-0.
However, Eastern took the lead after the restart. Xu Deshui was shifted back to the centre and the team was rewarded instantly, when his pass found Manuel Bleda in the box who comfortably slotted home. Southern proceeded to hammer away at the Eastern goal, but the foal just would not materialize. In the 87th minute, Lam Ka-Wai’s set piece was converted by an unmarked José Angel, who made no mistakes with his header from two yards out. The game ended and Eastern triumphed over Southern 2-0, slowly closing the gap between second and first place.
Saturday evening welcomed local football fans to Yuen Long Stadium, as the Tangerines obliterated Dreams FC at home. Yuen Long have been brilliant thus far this season and came into this game off a draw with Kitchee, while Dreams struggled with two losses and three draws. The Tangerines were first on the scoreboard just six minutes in, as Jean Moser snucked behind the Dreams backline to head in a failed defensive clearance.
The floodgates truly opened up in the second half. A fabulous combined effort between Cleiton and Yip Tsz-chun rippled the opposing net to make it 2-0 with 59 minutes played. 10 minutes later Cleiton notched another assist, as his cross from deep in the right was nodded in by Moser to the near post. To their credit, Dreams didn’t give up, and clawed a penalty back, when Lam Hin-ting was pulled down in the box. Nacho Martinez made no mistake, and gave Dreams a slim lifeline with half an hour to go, 3-1. Alas the fightback was not to be, as Yuen Long further sunk the the Dreamers with a worldly effort from Chan Kwong-ho and a penalty from Cleiton. On-form Yuen Long took all three points with a convincing 5-1 victory over Dreams FC. Yuen Long have now scored fourteen goals in five games.
The first Sunday game on October 21st saw Pegasus take on whipping boys Hoi King at Sham Shui Po Sports Ground, and those who were expecting a goal-feast would not be disappointed. Hoi King drew first blood through Christian Annan, as the Ghanaian was allowed too much space to collect the pass and fire home. Pegasus struck back immediately, with Walter Junior’s header looping up and over into the Hoi King goal. Annan reclaimed the lead for the newcomers as he capitalized on a defensive error and put his boot through the ball and goal, 2-1 in the 8th minute. Breathless stuff!
The momentum was evenly shared until the 28th minute. Running behind the defence, Walter Junior crossed the ball on a plate for Liu Pui-fung to deliver into an empty goal. Pegasus would find further joy from the wings, as Shu Sasaki headed in their 3rd of the day after receiving a cross from the right. The teams entered the shed at halftime, with a scoreline of 3-2 for the visitors.
Pegasus were no less dominant in the second half, with Travis Major bagging a brace from set pieces, with the home players helplessly watching on. The 85th minute saw the Flying Horsemen win a penalty, and Shu Sasaki put in the rebound, after Travis had been denied a hat trick by keeper Felix Luk. The game finished 6-2 to Pegasus and capped off a miserable run of games for Hoi King in their maiden Premier League season. You can find a photo gallery of the match at the end of this article.
Reigning champions Kitchee would round out Sunday evening with a game against Tai Po at Mong Kok Stadium. On paper, Kitchee appeared to be the favorites to emerge as winners from this clash between last year’s top two. But as it is so often in a game of football, nothing is over ‘till it’s over. In front of a crowd of 2053 spectators, Tai Po fought back after being 2-0 down to stun Kitchee and steal another point, the second district and New Territories side to do so this season.
There was considerable hype before the game following the return of Krisztian Vadocz to the Bluewaves, as the Hungarian opted to rejoin the side after a stint with Honvéd FC in his native Hungary. 13 minutes into the game, following a failed clearance by Tai Po defender Chak Ting-fung, Kitchee’s Korean defender Kim Bongjin let loose with a howitzer at goal that bounced off Li Hon Ho’s gloves, as it slipped through his grasp and into the net. The Green’s defense was breached again in the 28th minute as Jordi’s looping pass found Tadić before rounding a hapless Li, and into the back netting. Tai Po’s defenders looked clueless in the opening minutes, and Kitchee smelled blood. Lee Chi-kin’s men had little chance to counterattack, though Lee Ka-ho blazed one narrowly over the crossbar. Still, the first half would end with Kitchee cruising a dominant 2-0 performance.
The introduction of Lugo for Tai Po in the second half revitalized the Greens’ attack, as the Brazilian threatened constantly with his runs from midfield and the right side of the pitch. Upon his introduction, Lugo took the ball past four blue shirts, before fluffing his lines, with only Wang Zhenping to beat.
Much maligned by Tai Po fans in past games for his apparent selfishness in front of goal, it was Lugo who provided the assist to Harrison Sawyer to bring the score to 2-1. The towering Australian striker opened his Premier League account, and it was game on with 20 minutes remaining.
The nervousness in Tai Po’s game faded quickly into confidence as the players surged forward. In three minutes, Tai Po has scored again, courtesy to a Dudu header. Igor Sartori’s corner found his Brazilian teammate in the box, and Tai Po’s resident “King of Headers” put it into the far right hand corner.
Kitchee would have the last chance of the game, when a lofted pass into the box found Lucas, who attempted a overhead kick that would have surly found the back of the net, had Li Hon-Ho not palmed it away from point blank range. The match concluded2-2 between the two sides. This means that Kitchee have already dropped six points since September, more than they did over the entire last season.
The coming weekend will see a short break from the Premier League, when eight of the clubs will meet in the Senior Shield quarter finals.
R&F 2-1 Lee Man (October 20th, 2:30pm, Yanzigang Stadium, Attendance: 740)
Southern 0:2 Eastern (October 20th, 2:30pm, Mongkok Stadium, Attendance: 1,786)
Yuen Long 5:1 Dreams FC (October 20th, 5:30pm, Yuen Long Stadium, Attendance: 939)
Hoi King 2:6 Pegasus (October 21st, 2:30pm, Sham Shui Po Sports Ground, Attendance: 444)
Kitchee 2:2 Tai Po (October 21st, 5:30, Mongkok Stadium, Attendance: 2,053)
Photo gallery of the Hoi King v Pegasus match by Zinc Yeung