League newcomers Lee Man bagged their first ever three points with a meaningful 3-2 win over last season’s league runners-up Eastern on their home ground on a stuffy Friday night. A second-half brace from Aleksandr Kokko was not enough to cancel out Jordi Tarres and Law Chun-yan’s first half goals, with Chiu Chun-kit responding with what proved to be the winner shortly after the first of Kokko’s goals. Christie Leung was there to round-up all the action.
With both teams going into this game on zero points, few would have expected this to be an early ‘relegation battle’ before the start of the season, but it is Eastern‘s poor early form in particular that has been surprising. Lee Man had their captain Jordi Tarres starting after recovering from minor injuries, while Eastern’s new signing Vitor Saba also made his debut.
The game started off evenly with both sides trying their luck from outside the box in the early stages. After capitulaiting against Tai Po in the second half last week, Eastern continued to look shaky at the back and were not able to handle Denis Lima’s physicality and pace, and it only took 17 minutes for him to stun the visitors and break the deadlock. His initial shot was saved by Yapp Hung-fai, but the ball fell into the path of Jordi Tarres at the edge of the box, who chested down the ball and slotted it home in the bottom left corner. Eastern’s best chances fell to Aleksandr Kokko, who couldn’t direct his attempts on target.
Things went from bad to worse for the visitors just before the first half whistle, and it was Denis Lima again with a dangerous ball into the box from the right. Jo Tae-keun just managed to intervene, but his clearance fell to Law Chun-yan, who made no mistake in scoring to make it 2:0 to Lee Man.
With two goals to chase, Szeto Man-chun made a double substitution at half time to introduce forwards Jaimes McKee and Lo Kong-wai into the game. They were soon rewarded as Kokko headed home from a Xu Deshuai cross in the 50th minute. However, just two minutes later, Yapp Hung-fai could not clear the danger from a Lee Man corner, and Chiu Chun-kit was there to tap in the rebound to restore their two goal lead.
The defender was responsible for allowing the Blues back into the game, however, when his high boot in the box three minutes later gifted Eastern a penalty, from which Kokko duly smashed home. Eastern continued to press forward, and it was Kokko again with a lob that had beaten goalkeeper Felix Luk, but Tse Long-hin was there to make a goal-line clearance. Lee Man immediately responded by putting on defensive midfielder Jose Victor at the expense of forward Denis Lima to defend their lead. Both sides had their chances and the closest opportunity took place in extra time when Felix Luk saved Kokko’s header with his body on the line.
Lee Man can feel proud of their performance, and a victory over a team such as Eastern is no doubt a major scalp, but Eastern look a shadow of their former selves and must improve on their defensive errors as well as finding more creativity in attack before their season turns into a nightmare.