Last year’s champions Kitchee and playoff winners South China both kicked off their AFC Cup campaigns this week, with Kitchee facing Kaya FC (PHI) on Tuesday night at Mong Kok Stadium and South China making the trip to face Yangon United (MYA) on Wednesday. With both teams struggling to maintain a challenge in this season’s Hong Kong Premier League title race, it remained to be seen whether they could start things off with a positive result in Asia’s second tier continental cup competition. Jeff Hardbattle and Jacob Panons round up the action.
KITCHEE 1:0 KAYA FC (GROUP F)
(Match report by Jacob Panons)
(Kitchee goalscorers: Rufino (PEN) 69′)
A 69’ minute Rufino penalty assured Kitchee a win in 1-0 victory over Kaya FC in their first game of the group stages.
Kitchee looked much the better side in a narrow 1-0 win over AFC Cup debutants, Kaya FC from the Philippines, in the first round of matches in Group F of the AFC Cup. The win saw them claim the top spot in the group after New Radiant (Maldives) and Balestier Khalsa (Singapore) played out a 2-2 draw in the Maldives earlier in the night.
Kitchee looked destined to break the deadlock within the first couple of minutes when playmaker Lam Ka Wai played an inch perfect ball over the top to Annan, who did great to control the ball on his chest but failed to square the ball to Rufino before Kaya goalkeeper, Matthew Acton, slid in to grab the ball from Annan’s feet.
Kaya’s best chance of the first half came 20 minutes in when Daniels found himself 7 yards out, but blasted the ball over the crossbar.
Annan and Rufino were once again the focal points of Kitchee’s attack when a poor back-pass led to a weak clearance from Acton which fell to Annan, but the Hong Kong international failed to capitalise on these mistakes and his placed shot was cleared off the line by Omura.
Kaya looked to gain a little bit of momentum after half time and looked like scoring after a well-planned corner routine gave Borromeo the chance to give Kaya the lead, as the Kaya captain rose above the Kitchee defence to header the ball into the ground forcing Wang Zhengpeng to tip the ball over the crossbar.
Kitchee’s countless chances finally paid off in the 68th minute when a penalty was given, and experienced Spaniard Rufino made no mistakes and placed the ball into the bottom left corner to make it 1-0 to the sky blues.
Annan once again failed to convert another 1-on-1 chance with the goalkeeper in the closing minutes of the game and capped off a fairly underwhelming performance with a yellow card for simulation in the 89th minute.
Many fans may be questioning Abraham Garcia’s decision to exclude Fernando from the AFC Cup squad due to the rather poor performance from fellow winger, Annan. Also, many fans voiced their longing for Belencoso upfront after Rufino failed to make the most of his numerous chances in front of goal.
Kaya were lucky to only lose by 1 goal but Kitchee were ineffective in the final third, and Garcia’s side will be looking for more of an attacking spark in their next AFC Cup outing away to Balestier Khalsa.
DATE AND TIME: 8pm, 23rd February, 2016
STADIUM: Mong Kok Stadium
YANGON UNITED 2:1 SOUTH CHINA (GROUP G)
(Match report by Jeff Hardbattle)
(Yangon United goalscorers: Kyaw Ko Ko 19′, Marcelo 48′)
(South China goalscorers: Griffiths 15′)
A Ryan Griffiths strike from an initally saved penalty was not enough to give South China victory in their opening match in Group G of the AFC Cup, as they succumbed to a 2:1 loss to Yangon United of Myanmar.
The result marks an extremely disappointing start to the campaign for the Caroliners, whose wastefulness in front of goal undoubtedly had an impact on the final score, and they now sit outside of the qualification places after the first round of group matches after Mohun Bagan (IND) thrashed Maziya (MLD) by 5:2.
South China came out of the blocks strongly despite the blistering heat and humidity in Yangon, and their early pressure paid off on the quarter of an hour mark when Mahama Awal was brought down in the area when through on goal. AFC Cup veteran Ryan Griffiths stepped up for the spot kick, only for his first effort to be saved by Yangon United goalkeeper Luiz Fernando. Luckily for the Australian striker, the ball fell kindly to him allowing him to place the ball into the back of the net to make it 1:0 to the Caroliners.
Three minutes after the break, Yangon United scored what proved to be the winner, with Kyaw Ko Ko once again involved by teeing up Brazilian forward Marcelo Fernandes whose low effort went in off post. Questions will be asked of goalkeeper Leung Chun Kit, who perhaps should and could have done more to keep the scores tied.
South China were handed a lifeline in the 55th minute, when midfielder Yan Aung Kyaw was shown a second yellow card and given his marching orders, and the away side had a host of chances to level things up including a Lam Hok Hei header that went just wide of the post, but they were unable to breach the host’s stubborn defence. The match finished in a 2:1 defeat for Casemiro Mior’s side, who will be looking for a response in their next outing when they face Mohun Bagan (IND) at Mong Kok Stadium on the 9th March.
DATE AND TIME: 5:30pm, 24th February, 2o16
STADIUM: Youth Training Centre, Yangon
AFC CUP (GROUP F)
|BALESTIER KHALSA FC (SIN)||1||0||1||0||2||2||0||1|
|NEW RADIANT SC (MDV)||1||0||1||0||2||2||0||1|
|KAYA FC (PHI)||1||0||0||1||0||1||-1||0|
AFC CUP (GROUP G)
|MOHUN BAGAN (IND)||1||1||0||0||5||2||3||3|
|YANGON UNITED (MYA)||1||1||0||0||2||1||1||3|
|SOUTH CHINA (HKG)||1||0||0||1||1||2||-1||0|
|MAZIYA SPORTS & RECREATION (MDV)||1||0||0||1||2||5||-3||0|