The first Hong Kong Premier League fixtures of 2016 took place over the weekend, with the results having a big effect on teams both at the top and at the foot of the league table. Southern and Dreams kicked off the action on Saturday with both teams looking to stake their claim for a top 5 finish, and Kitchee and Pegasus met in a highly-charged affair that could have serious implications for last year’s champion’s title retention hopes. On Sunday, bottom-of-the-league Wong Tai Sin took on second-from-bottom Yuen Long in a match that could go a long way in deciding who could face the drop, and league-leaders Eastern and second placed South China clashed in a match of huge importance as the race for this year’s championship hots up. Jeff Hardbattle, Tobias Zuser and Jacob Panons bring you a round-up of all of the action. (Highlights courtesy of on.cc)
SOUTHERN 6:3 DREAMS
(Southern goalscorers: Wan 3′; De Souza (PEN) 8′; Carril 19′; James Ha 45′, 64′; Luk 82′)
(Dreams goalscorers: Soares Damasceno 48′; Fukuda (PEN) 60′, 81′)
(Match report by Jeff Hardbattle)
An incredible spate of goals at Aberdeen Sports Ground saw Saturday’s early kick-off between two mid-table sides become a highlight of the Premier League season far, as Southern and Dreams battled out a hugely entertaining game that ultimately resulted in an important victory for the home side that keeps them within reach of the top 4.
The 333 fans in attendance did not have to wait long to see the scoreboard change, as Emmet Wan put Southern 1:0 up after just 3 minutes after a terrific effort from the right side of the park that was well outside of the 18-yard-box, which sailed beyond Dreams goalkeeper Pang Tsz Kin for his first goal of the season.
A disastrous start for the visitors got worse when five minutes later, when Wellingsson de Souza was aggressively shouldered off the ball in the area, which the referee deemed to be a penalty. De Souza stepped up to take the spot kick and placed the ball in the bottom-left corner past the outstretched hand of the keeper to double his team’s lead.
Southern were in no mood to back down from their attacking style of play, and they took advantage of a mistake at the back when a looping back-header was misjudged by Pang in the Dreams goal who came out too early, allowing Jonathan Carril to sneak past him and head the ball into an empty net to seemingly put the game beyond their opponents after just 20 minutes.
And just before half time it looked all over, as Carril turned provider with a wonderful pass to set up James Ha who beat the offside trap and slotted home his sixth goal of the campaign in all competitions.
But the away side were not going to lie down without a fight, and in the second half Dreams came out with a renewed energy and belief about themselves. Just three minutes after the re-start, Soares Damasceno got himself on the scoresheet when he found enough room to get a shot away just outside of the box that trickled through the Southern defence. Goalkeeper Tse Tak Him was unable to get a hand to it, making the score 4:1.
Just on the hour mark, it became 4:2 when Kenji Fukuda was knocked to the ground by Carril after a free kick had been delivered into the box. The former J-league star duly converted the resulting penalty, sending the keeper the wrong way to half the scoreline defecit.
But James Ha had other ideas about any potential miraculous comeback, and he restored his side’s three goal advantage when Sham Kwok Fai sped into the box and delivered a low cross that allowed the striker to put a cheeky back-heel into the net from close range.
Fukuda again gave his team some hope ten minutes from time, when he expertly controlled a long ball into the area with his chest, and he smashed the ball over Tse Tak Him to make it 5:3.
But with Southern having been rampant in front of goal, it took them less than a minute for Michael Luk to emphatically seal their victory, after a ball into the box wasn’t dealt with by the Dreams defence, allowing the midfielder to tuck the ball away from the loose ball to make it 6:3.
The result moves the Aberdeeners up to 5th in the league, now just a point behind Dreams in 4th with the latter having played a game more.
DATE AND TIME: 2:30pm, Saturday 9th January, 2016
STADIUM: Aberdeen Sports Ground
KITCHEE 2:0 PEGASUS
(Kitchee goalscorers: Fernando 63′; Akande 81′)
(Match report by Jacob Panons)
It might be fair to say that Kitchee had been going through a difficult period up until this match, and indeed Pegasus looked the better side in the first half and looked destined to score 8 minutes into the game when Joao Emir played a stunning ball over the top of the defense with the outside of his foot to meet Wong Wai who tried to tap the ball over the defender, only for the heavy touch to be collected by the keeper. A minute later, Emir attempted a great bit of skill to take the ball round a Kitchee defender and played a similar ball over the top but this time to Adrovic who failed to test Kitchee keeper Wang Zhenpeng.
The home side had a golden opportunity to score in the 33rd minute when Jordi Tarres was on the end of a great through ball to leave him one-on-one with keeper Yuen Ho Chun, only for an attempted chip to glide wide of the far post.
Emir capped off a spectacular first half with a shot towards the back post on the cusp of half time that Wang Zhenpeng dramatically dived to punch away. The waves of attack still came from Pegasus as Lo Kong Wai found Adrovic with a cross in the 58th minute, but the Montenegrin failed to capitalise on the opportunity by heading the ball straight at the keeper. Kitchee eventually broke the deadlock in the 64th minute with their first attack of the second half when the ball rolled to Fernando on the edge of the box and the Brazilian made no mistake, calmly finessing the ball past Yuen Ho Chun to make it 1-0.
Substitute Alex Akande changed the game for the current champions after coming on and got his well-deserved goal in the 81st minute. The ball was simply rolled across the box for the Nigerian-born striker to easily slot into an open net to put the hosts 2:0 up. Akande was gifted an opportunity for his second and Kitchee’s third when Praes made a defensive blunder by tripping over the ball, but he made up for his mistake by catching up with Akande and did just enough to put him off, with the Hong Kong international blazing the ball over the bar.
Adrovic tried once again to reduce the two-goal deficit when he rose up to deliver a floating header, but the ball went just over the bar.
To cap off an aggressive game, Praes and Matt Lam had a confrontation that was sparked by a controversial challenge on Pegasus play-maker Emir in the dying minutes of the game.
The sky blues’ victory keeps them just in contention with the teams at the top and now sit in 3rd place with 14 points, a point behind South China in second. Pegasus sink to 6th on goal difference despite having only lost twice thus far.
DATE AND TIME: 5:30pm, Saturday 9th January, 2016
STADIUM: Mong Kok Stadium
ATTENDANCE: Not released
WONG TAI SIN 1:1 YUEN LONG
(Wong Tai Sin goalscorers: Zhang Jun 48′)
(Yuen Long goalscorers: Ip Chung Long 25′)
(Match report by Tobias Zuser)
Much was at stake in this relegation battle between Wong Tai Sin and Yuen Long, with both teams still chasing their first win this season. Nevertheless, a respectable crowd of more than 500 people made their way to Hammer Hill Road to support the two underdogs of the Premier League. Both clubs also had their newly signed Brazilian forwards in their respective starting elevens. Yuen Long have just signed 27-year old Stefan Figueiredo Pereira, who already played for Citizen AA in the 2013/14 season before joining Olimpic Sarajevo in Europe, while Wong Tai Sin have put all their hopes in Everton Camargo, who made his first appearance in the Sapling Cup game on January 6th, where his new team lost 1-2 to South China.
The hosts started with several promising chances, so it was perhaps surprising when Yuen Long took the lead in the 25th minute. While probably not intended, Ip Chun Long’s corner kick found its way into the net, making it his first league goal this season. After that, it took some time until Wong Tai Sin recovered from the shock, and fans had to wait until the second half when Zhang Jun set the record straight, with his free kick somehow passing by all defenders as well as goalkeeper Chiu Yu Ming.
With the game open again, both teams now tried their best to bag the three points, and it was time for the aforementioned Brazilians to try and put their stamp on the game. However, Camargo missed twice from promising positions, and soon after Stefan Pereira just sent the ball over the Wong Tai Sin goal. Eventually, the game ended in what was probably a fair 1-1 draw. After sharing the points in this round, neither Wong Tai Sin nor Yuen Long were able to gain any breathing space. Instead, they will be involved in a tough relegation battle over the next few weeks together with the Hong Kong Rangers.
DATE AND TIME: 2:30pm, Sunday 10th January, 2016
STADIUM: Hammer Hill Sports Ground
EASTERN 3:1 SOUTH CHINA
(Eastern goalscorers: Giovane 23′, 33′; Moreira 50′)
(South China goalscorers: Chan Siu Ki 90’+4′)
(Match report by Jeff Hardbattle)
The final match of the weekend saw a battle between first and second in the league at Mong Kok Stadium, as 4,130 fans made their way to watch these two old rivals fight it out in the cold. A victory for South China would have put them top, but Chan Yuen Ting’s men continued their march into 2016 as both league-leaders and the only undefeated side of the Premier League campaign thus far.
Eastern came out of the blocks strongly, and Michel Lugo almost put the blues ahead early on as he managed to get a shot away after an excellent run into the box from the far right side, but his effort was directly at keeper Christian Mora who gratefully scooped up the ball.
The deadlock was broken in the 23rd minute, after Giovane skillfully rose up to head a cross from a free kick towards goal. Mora did well to save the initial attempt, but the ball fell kindly to the Brazilian who put away the rebound to put Eastern 1:0 up.
Ten minutes later, it was Giovane again with his fifth goal in the Premier League after a dangerous low cross saw Lee Hong Lim unable to connect with it, with the ball going on to reach the in-form striker whose spectacular effort sailed into the top right corner to the delight of the blue contingent in the stadium.
It only took five minutes after the break for Eastern to put the game to bed, and this time it was Moreira who found a gap in the Caroliner’s defence to rise up and put the ball in the net with a bullet header from a corner that left Mora with no chance. The score was now 3:0.
South China did have a couple of good chances, including an effort from new Australian signing Ryan Griffiths that came back off the woodwork, and they finally managed to get on the scoresheet in stoppage time when Chan Siu Ki picked up the ball inside the Eastern box. His powerful shot took a slight deflection which was enough to take the ball past Yapp Hung Fai and make it 3:1.
The win for the blues solidifies their position in first place, and they are now four points of the Caroliners who remain in second. Eastern have now scored 16 goals this season, more than any other team in the league.
DATE AND TIME: 5:30pm, Sunday 10th January, 2016
STADIUM: Mong Kok Stadium
BOCG LIFE HONG KONG PREMIER LEAGUE TABLE (12/1/2016)
|Team||Game||Win||Draw||Loss||Goal Gain||Goal Loss||Goal Diff||Point|
|8||Wong Tai Sin||7||0||3||4||4||10||-6||3|