In a result that defied the league table proximity of these two sides, it was Yuen Long who emerged victorious in this somewhat one-sided New Territories derby clash at a packed Tai Po Sports Ground.
Despite their subsequent downturn in fortunes, the early exchanges of this HKPL encounter saw Tai Po have the best of the early chances. The first opportunity of the game came to Brazilian defender Dudu who was slow to react to a Wong Yiu Fu free-kick before the ball was scrambled away. Moments later, Dudu’s countryman David Lazari failed to get on the end of a long ball up field after finding himself in a dangerous position. Despite the game being just ten minutes old, that missed chance signalled the end of Tai Po’s half, and Yuen Long proceeded to dominate matters from that point onward. Tai Po goalkeeper Li Hon Ho was initially called into action on two occasions but saved easily from Stefan Pereira and Diego Higino respectively, with those initial shots a mere warning for what was to come. The visitor’s first real chance of note fell to Pereira once again, who failed to convert following some excellent play from Ngan Lok Fung and Diego Higino in the attacking third. However, it was to be a case of ‘third time lucky’ for Pereira, who finally broke the deadlock minutes later, coolly slotting home after the ball was squared to him by Higino once again. Soon after, things got worse for Tai Po. Pereira the architect this time, beating a man before threading a ball through to the on-rushing Yip Tsz Chun who made no mistake in finishing emphatically to double Yuen Long’s lead. The game was almost ended as a contest just before half-time, only for an excellent save from Li Hon Ho to deny Diego Higino’s excellent long-range effort. This was to be the last action of the first half, and as referee Chan Ming Siu called time on matters the score remained at 2-0 with Yuen Long very much in control.
With a large, enthusiastic crowd having gathered at Tai Po Sports Ground for this clash, one would have been forgiven for expecting the uncharacteristically lacklustre home side to mount some kind of a comeback in the second half, but frankly this wasn’t the case, and the game was put beyond reasonable doubt just minutes after the restart. A swift one-two between Diego Higino and Yip Tsz Chun resulted in the ball falling at the feet of Higino in the area, and the Brazilian made no mistake in slamming the ball into the back of the Tai Po net. With the game clearly settled, the second half saw the intensity of the tie decrease drastically, aside from an altercation between Wong Yiu Fu and Wong Yim Kwan which both players were lucky to avoid booking for. Indeed it was Wong Yiu Fu who managed to create the best chance of the second half for either side, playing an exquisite ball into Yuto Nakumura who fed Tan Chun Lok. Tan managed to hit the target but saw his effort saved by Pang Tsz Kin in the visiting goal. Another Tan Chun Lok shot fired straight at the keeper soon after never looked destined for the net, and as the game wore on a comeback was beginning to look almost impossible. To their credit, the Tai Po fans retained their support for their charges throughout the game, singing in full voice right up until the final whistle. Yuen Long did their best to slow down matters, Chan Hin Kwong receiving a yellow card for his part in the visitor’s time-wasting tactics, and after a fairly dull closing ten minutes the game was eventually brought to a halt. Despite Tai Po’s weakness in defence and lack of imagination in attack, credit must be given to Yuen Long for their performance today. Attacking flair from Stefan Pereira and Diego Higino was complimented by defensive discipline from midfield general Ngan Lok Fung and their well organised backline. Now sitting in third place in the table, Yuen Long’s fans may dare to dream, despite eight points separating them from first place Eastern FC.
TAI PO: Li Hon Ho, Everson De Lima, Dudu, Wong Wai, Lee Ka Yiu, Fung Hing Wa, Tan Chun Lok, Che Runqiu (Ye Jia), David Lazari, Yuto Nakamura, Wong Yiu Fu (Chan Hiu Fung).
YUEN LONG: Pang Tsz Kin, Lau Ka Ming, Carlos Bertoldi, Diego Higino, Stefan Pereira, Yip Tsz Chun (Lau Ho Lam), Ngan Lok Fung (Tam Lok Hin), Wong Yim Kwan, Fabio Alcantara (Yu Wai Lim), Chan Hin Kwong, Luciano Da Silva