The first league actions in 2020, after two Sapling Cup group stage weekends, saw a host of new signings making their debuts, including debut goals from Sandro and Gabriel Mendez. Wins for the top 3 teams, R&F, Southern and Kitchee, kept them at their respective positions in the title race.
Wellingsson de Souza stole the spotlight at Hong Kong Stadium on Thursday evening to give the Bluewaves a comfortable win over Pegasus. The guests opened the score quickly after just four minutes into the match, Wellingsson de Souza scored a close-range half valley as Jared Lum brilliantly picked him in the box. Seven minutes later, it was Wellingsson again, with a cross by the sidelines on the right, which was turned into his own goal by Michael Glassock. The Flying Horsemen had their new signing Jean Moser, on loan from Eastern, starting for his new employer, whose one-on-one blocked effort in the first half was also his team’s closest opportunity. At 63’, Wellingsson de Souza rounded the game off with his second of the night, sending an unstoppable shot home after Manual Bleda found him at the edge of the box to make it 3:0.
At Tai Po Sports Ground on Saturday afternoon, there was the third encounter between Tai Po and Southern since the turn of the new year. While Southern won on all three occasions, the goals came much earlier this time. It took 11 minutes for Philip Chan’s solo effort goal, who ran onto a loose ball from 20 yards, down the left into the box and scored at a tight angle. The hosts responded with some good attacking moves but without finding the back of the net, including Nakamura Yuto hitting the post. However that created space in their backline for Southern’s fast counter attack, at 23’, Travis Major squared the ball in front of the outrushing Alex Palelei for Gabriel Mendez to slot inside empty goal to double the lead. The Australian scored the next himself, as he drove into the box whilst his marker Philip To injured himself, the forward skipped round keeper on one-on-one to make it 3:0 at the half-hour mark. The hosts pulled a goal back through a Chan Man-fai volley after Kim Minki headed down a looping cross as the final kick of the first half. Tai Po took the dominance in the second half and got back into the game from a corner, where Che Runqiu scored with a half bicycle kick at 6 yards in the 63th minute to make it 2:3. However, the Greens’ momentum was disrupted by another Aberdeeners’ counter-effort, as Dhiego Martins went round the out-rushing Alex Palelei to settled the game 10 minutes later. This was also the seventh defeat in a row for the reigning champions ahead of their trip to Kedah, Malaysia for the ACL qualifier on Tuesday.
At the same time at Yanzigang Stadium, R&F ran out an easy winner at home over Rangers. Serge Deble opened the scoring scored after exchanging with Matt Lam inside the box in the 25th minute. Igor Sartori then doubled the lead at 37’, when he dribbled through two Rangers and the keeper to slot it home. A quick three goals within 9 minutes in the second half from the hosts secured the big win for them. Nine minutes after the break, Giovane smashed in Igor Satori’s cross from the left, and got his second after just four minutes, when he scored the spot after Chung Sing-lam fouled Lo Kwan-yee inside the box. Roberto Junior made it 5:0 with a near-post header from a Lam Zhi-gin’s corner at 65’.
With new strikers Sandro and Lucas Silva starting for them for the first time, Eastern started off lively and threatened right from the kickoff. It only took 13 minutes to open the score when Everton Camargo was released down the right, with his signature cut-inside run into the box before unleashing a left-footed shot past Yuen Ho-chuen. Seven minutes later, it was Everton Camargo down the right again, who set up Sandro to slot in his debut goal. As the Bees grew into the game, Michael D’dri and Lee Hong-lim came close on a few occasions but could not get past Yapp Hung-fai or the woodwork to keep the score at 2:0 to Eastern at the break. At 67’, Lee Man saw their three consecutive on-target attempts blocked by Eastern’s defence and finally managed to pull one back at 75’, when Michael N’dri found the unmarked Serhii Shapoval in the box, whose shot deflected into the net off Eduardo Praes. In search of the equaliser, Lee Man had the best of the play towards the end of the game but was denied several times by the brilliant Yapp Hung-fai to ensure all 3 points for the hosts.
The final game of the round saw glory shared between Happy Valley and Yuen Long at Hammer Hill Road at the bottom of the table clash. As a crucial head to head fight for survival, it was an even game between the sides with both keepers being the busiest on the pitch. The deadlock was finally broken in the 58th minute when Mikael scored from the penalty spot after Happy Valley was penalised for a Poon Pui-hin handball inside the box. Lai Pui-kei secured a point for the hosts with seven minutes remaining on the clock, as he scored directly from a freekick from the edge of the box, which was also the 18 years old’s first professional goal. During extra time, Alex Jojo received his marching orders after being shown two yellow cards within five minutes.
The league table was split into two halves with seven points in the gap between the top five and the bottom five. Big win for R&F kept them at the top with four points clear, followed by another winner Southern of this round with 18 points. Eastern’s win over Lee Man made them level on 16 points along with Kitchee, with the latter ranked higher at 3rd on superior goal difference. Yuen Long left the bottom with five points over Rangers, only on goal difference after the latter suffered a heavy defeat at Guangzhou.
Pegasus 0:3 Kitchee (Jan 16th 8pm, Hong Kong Stadium, Attendance: 747)
Tai Po 2:4 Southern (Jan 18th 2:30pm, Tai Po Sports Ground, Attendance: 641)
R&F 5:0 Rangers (Jan 18th 2:30pm, Yanzigang Stadium, Attendance: 466)
Eastern 2:1 Lee Man (Jan 18th 5:30pm, Tseung Kwan O Sports Ground, Attendance: 784)
Happy Valley 1:1 Yuen Long (Jan 19th 2:30pm, Hammer Hill Road Sports Ground, Attendance: 593)