On the back of what has been a tragic week in the footballing world, the crash of LaMia flight 2933 has been felt worldwide. No less so in Mong Kok Stadium on Saturday evening, where HKPL heavyweights Kitchee and Eastern took to the field with four Brazilian-born players in their starting elevens. Despite this, once the minute’s silence had been observed, both teams performed in this game with no visible signs of distraction. Instead, they proceeded to play out this six-pointer in an atmosphere we have come to expect from meetings between these two sides.
It took just five minutes for referee Ho Wai-sing to produce his first card, when Kitchee defender Helio was cautioned for retaliation after being fouled inside the Eastern half. The resulting free kick was perfectly delivered onto the head of Rufino Segovia, but the Spaniard failed to find the target and saw his effort sail wide of goal. This was to be the beginning of a spell of dominance for the home side, and moments later, a piece of magic from Fernando saw the Brazilian cruise past Cheng King Ho on the left wing before sending in a tantalising cross which just missed the head of target-man Alex Akande. At the other end, Eastern were failing to create much in the way of chances, their main threat seeming to be the pace of Jaimes McKee on the wing. However, the Hong Kong international met his match in the form of experienced left-back Dani Cancela, who appeared solid throughout. With both sides possessing well-organised defences, creating clear goal scoring opportunities was always going to be a difficult task. The best chance of the half fell to Rufino, who was unlucky to see his close-range effort denied by a great save from Eastern skipper Yapp Hung Fai in the away goal. Yapp was called into action yet again just moments later, saving brilliantly after an audacious long-range effort from Korean defender Kim Bong Jin. A well-struck volley from Jared Lum in the 45th minute, once again saved by Yapp Hung Fai, proved to be the final chance of the first half, and the two sides went in at the break with honours even.
The second half began in a similar vein to the first, with Kitchee looking to be the more dangerous of the two sides. A long range strike from Lo Kwan Yee which looked destined for the top corner sailed just wide of the target. With all of this pressure, it seemed as though it was only a matter of time before Kitchee broke the deadlock. However, their hopes were dealt a major blow with thirty minutes left on the clock, as defender Helio was given his marching orders for a second bookable offence. His crime in this case, was a high challenge which was dangerously close to the head of Eastern’s Tsang Kam To, much to the chagrin of the well-represented home supporters. Encouraged by their numerical advantage, Eastern began to offer more in attack. Jaimes McKee was unlucky to see his glancing header sail just wide of the target, before Michel Lugo headed over from close range with the goal at his mercy, following excellent build-up play by Manuel Bleda.
Seemingly undeterred by the sending off and unwilling to accept a draw, Kitchee introduced experienced striker Sandro with twenty minutes left on the clock, and he almost broke the deadlock minutes later, blasting over after getting on the end of an excellent cross from Fernando. Kitchee continued to apply pressure for the remainder of the game, and the introduction of new signing Orhan Mustafi seemed to represent one last throw of the dice in terms of coming out of this game with three points. But unfortunately for Mustafi, and Kitchee, Eastern’s defence remained resolute, and the game finished a stalemate. For Kitchee, this will be seen as a missed opportunity to gain ground in the title race, having created more opportunities despite playing most of the second half with ten men, while Eastern are likely to be satisfied with this result which sees them maintain a two-point lead at the business end of the Hong Kong Premier League table.
KITCHEE: Wang Zhangpeng, Lo Kwan Yee, Dani Cancela, Kim Bong Jin, Helio, Huang Yang, Jared Lum, Matthew Lam, Alex Akande (Sandro), Fernando (Tsang Kam To), Rufino Segovia (Orhan Mustafi).
EASTERN: Yapp Hung Fai, Cheng King Ho, Tsang Kam To, Roberto Affonso, Josh Mitchell, Diego Eli (Giovane da Silva), Bai He, Miroslav Saric (Michel Lugo), Jaimes McKee, Lee Hong Lim, Manuel Bleda.
Picture: Courtesy of HKFA.com