In a New Territories derby game that is unlikely to live long in the memory of the spectators, hosts Yuen Long succumbed to a 2-0 loss at the hands of an efficient Tai Po side, a scoreline that was at odds with the result of the reverse fixture in Tai Po last November.
Yuen Long, who were without the suspended Aleksander Randelovic and Ngan Lok Fung, did not play with their usual attacking verve, and the first half was something of a drab affair. An early chance squandered by Stefan Pereira was the only opportunity of note in the opening exchanges, as neither side managed to create much in the way of chances. Pereira again came close soon after, this time by virtue of an acrobatic volley from a corner kick, but to no avail. At the other end, a Lucas da Silva cross met by the head of Lee Ka-yiu was the only real effort of note, and Tai Po’s first half consisted mainly of long-balls forward to the increasingly isolated da Silva, with Japanese playmaker Yuto Nakamura struggling to make an impact on the game. The score remained deadlocked at nil-nil when the referee called time on the opening period of play, but neither side created a performance to excite the 1,600-strong crowd in attendance.
Fortunately, the second half was an improvement in terms of quality of play, for the visitors at least, as space began to open up in offensive areas of the pitch. Skipper Wong Wai should have opened the scoring after being sent through by Lucas da Silva, but sent his tame effort straight at Pang Tsz-kin. The home side did manage to hit the back of the net on 60 minutes, only to be denied by the referee’s whistle, which had already been blown prior to Stefan Pereira’s looping header sailing over Li Hon-ho. At the other, another chance fell to the unusually wasteful Wong Wai, who lost his footing at the vital moment, but Tai Po were certainly looking the more imposing of the two sides. The deadlock was finally broken on 70 minutes, courtesy of a moment of magic from Yuto Nakamura, whose long-range free-kick looped over the head of Pang Tsz-kin and into the net, much to the delight of the travelling Tai Po support.
Not willing to surrender the game without a fight, the marauding Fabio Lopes had two efforts on goal in quick succession, both headers from corners, and both easily dealt with by Li Hon-ho. Before long, the game was ended as a contest as Tai Po doubled their lead. This time the perpetrator was Brazilian defender Dudu, who met a Nakamura corner to head it home. In the dying moments, a third goal looked a possibility as da Silva’s effort could only be parried by Pang, eventually culminating in a goalmouth scramble before the ball was hacked away by Fabio Lopes. This was to be the last action of the night, and the referee called time on a forgettable game at Yuen Long Stadium. For both of these sides, the 2017 Hong Kong Premier League season is unlikely to offer anything more than mid-table safety – although either of them could still qualify for the season play-off. For Tai Po fans, all eyes are on the upcoming Sapling Cup Final, and a chance to get their hands on some much-coveted silverware.
YUEN LONG: Pang Tsz-kin, Law Chun-ting, Ticao, Diego Higino, Stefan Pereira, Yip Tsz-chun (Tam Lok-hin), Yiu Ho-ming, Fabio Lopes (Yu Wai-lim), Chan Hin-kwong, Luciano da Silva, Lau Ho-lam
TAI PO: Li Hon-ho, Lima, Dudu, Chen Jingde (Chiu Siu-wai), Wong Wai, Lee Ka-yiu, Lui Chi-hing, Lucas da Silva, Chan Hiu-fung, Yuto Nakamura, Wong Yiu-fu