In a game that is unlikely to live long in the memory of either of these sets of fans, it was an efficient performance by Eastern Long Lions that handed them victory over a lacklustre Yuen Long side in this Hong Kong Premier League clash.
Eastern were unlucky not to go ahead just minutes into this encounter, as a powerful header from Hong Kong international Jaimes McKee was denied by a great save by visiting goalkeeper Pang Tsz-kin. After this early drama, the game settled into something of a lull, with neither side creating much in the way of clear-cut chances. Despite this, Aleksandar Randelovic was proving himself to be something of a thorn in the side of the Eastern defence and managed three efforts on target in the first half. The first, a header from the edge of the box easily saved by Yapp Hung-fai, and the second and third coming in quick succession, as he latched onto a through ball from Tam Lok-hin and fired a shot low and hard at goal which was parried back in his direction by Yapp, who was on hand again to get hold of the subsequent rebound to keep his clean sheet intact. The remainder of the half was a tight affair right up until additional time, when Lee Hong-lim was handed the best opportunity of the half, firing straight at the goalkeeper after being put clean through on goal. This was to be the last action of the opening 45 minutes, with neither side looking particularly dominant going in at the break.
Luckily for the 1,800 strong crowd at Mong Kok Stadium, the pace of the second period was far superior to that of the first. Whatever Chan Yuen-ting said to her side at half time appeared to pay dividends, as the home side came out all guns blazing after the break. Wong Tsz-ho was first to take fire, as he launched a menacing shot at goal just minutes after the restart, and this proved to be a warning sign for what was to come, as the deadlock was broken just minutes later. A shot by Ju Yingzhi was blocked on the line by Fabio Lopes, but only as far as the onrushing Wong Tsz made no mistake in sending the ball into the back of the net. Spurred into action by this setback, the visitors were unlucky not to level matters at the other end just minutes later, as a dangerous cross drilled across goal by Chan Hin-kwong evaded everyone and went harmlessly out of play. Soon after, the champions doubled their lead, courtesy of their talisman Manuel Bleda. Starting from the bench for this tie, Bleda had been on the pitch for just over a minute when he managed to get on the end of a Ju Yingzhi free-kick to head the ball past the helpless Pang Tsz-kin. With the game as good as over, the remaining exchanges between these sides were of a scrappier nature, with tackles flying in and the referee being forced to intervene on a number of occasions. With Eastern attacking without fear in the closing stages, Yuen Long had Luciano Da Silva to thank for keeping the score respectable, as he was called on to make a number of last ditch challenges to deny the home side’s offensive threat. A missed chance by Randelovic in the closing stages was to be the last chance of note for either side, and the game finished with the score at 2-0. For Eastern, this comprehensive victory will be seen as yet another step in the right direction in terms of retaining their title crown, while Yuen Long should not be too disheartened at losing to the league champions considering their impressive showing in this campaign thus far.
Eastern: Yapp Hung-fai, Josh Mitchell, Diego Eli, Bai He (Manuel Bleda), Roberto Affonso, Lee Hong-lim, Tsang Kam-to (Cheng King-ho), Giovane Da Silva (Michel Lugo), Jaimes McKee, Ju Yingzhi, Wong Tsz-ho.
Yuen Long: Pang Tsz-kin, Carlos Bertoldi, Stefan Pereira, Ngan Lok-fung (Lau Ka-ming), Wong Yim Kwan (Yiu Ho-ming), Fabio Lopes Alacantara, Chan Hin-kwong, Tam Lok-hin, Luciano Da Silva, Ho Lam-lau, Aleksandar Randelovic.
Title Photo: HKFA.com