By Tobias Zuser, Jeff Hardbattle and Jacob Panons
The bulk of the Premier League’s last matches of 2015 took place over the weekend, with much at stake for the teams fighting for the championship and also those battling to stay in the top flight.
Saturday’s fixtures saw bottom-of-the-league Wong Tai Sin host last year’s champions Kitchee, and second-from-bottom Rangers taking on Southern in a bid to improve their fortunes in the league thus far.
Jeff Hardbattle, Tobias Zuser and Jacob Panons were there to round-up the results. (Highlights courtesy of on.cc)
WONG TAI SIN 0:0 KITCHEE
(Match report by Tobias Zuser)
While this might have not been the most appealing fixture of the weekend, Kitchee have come under pressure to bag points if they want to stay in the title race, but in recent weeks Abraham Garcia’s men have started to show some weaknesses, especially against defensive sides with disciplined counter-attack strategies, resulting in an unexpected loss to Dreams in the Premier League and a disappointing goalless draw with Southern in the League Cup.
Perhaps, therefore, it is not a surprise that fans have started becoming impatient. On the other hand, though Wong Tai Sin still sit at the bottom of the league, it is debatable as to whether this accurately reflects their true potential after some encouraging signs in recent performances.
Despite starting with three strikers in the game, Kitchee once again had a hard time finding the target. In the 14th minute, Jorge “Jordi” Tarres sent the ball wide off the post, and later on both Lam Ka Wai and Belencoso missed promising chances to give their team the lead.
Throughout most of the game, Wong Tai Sin were happy to soak up the pressure, but in the 39th minute captain Yuto Nakamura, who is currently on loan from South China, almost put the hosts in the lead with a skillfully-executed volley that just went wide. The second half was of a similar nature.
Kitchee dominated most of the game, while Wong Tai Sin waited patiently for their time to counter-attack, which almost paid off, when Nakamura was fed another ball during stoppage time, but was unable to find the target. After this draw, Kitchee might need to start putting their title ambitions to rest.
Now in 5th place, they are already 7 points behind arch-rivals South China and 8 points behind powerhouse Eastern. Wong Tai Sin, on the other hand, have now dragged Yuen Long and Rangers into the relegation fight, promising more exciting rounds to come.
But all eyes will now be on December 23rd, when Kitchee take on South China at Mong Kok Stadium, which will also be the last Premier League game in 2015.
DATE AND TIME: 14:30 HKT; Saturday 12th December, 2015
STADIUM: Hammer Hill Sports Ground
RANGERS 0:0 SOUTHERN
(Match report by Jeff Hardbattle)
After the previous fixture earlier in the day failed to produce any goals, the 271 fans that made the trip to Kowloon Bay Park would have at least been hoping for a little more action in front of goal.
They would have been sorely mistaken to assume so, however, as both Rangers and Southern played out a 90 minutes that was entirely bereft of any clear cut chances.
The home side’s best chance came in the 36th minute, after a nice pass from Quentin Lendresse was picked up by Hui Ka Lok in the area, who found enough space to get his shot away at goal but unfortunately for him Southern goalkeeper Tse Tak Him was equal to it and palmed the ball away to safety.
The visitors also found life difficult going forward, but they nearly put themselves ahead after some excellent link-up work outside the Rangers area put Wellingsson De Souza into a dangerous position, but his shot flew just wide of the post.
Neither side really threatened to trouble the scorekeepers throughout the game in truth, and the result means that Rangers move up to 7th on goal difference with 3 points, while Southern sit just ahead of them with 6 points in 6th.
DATE AND TIME: 17:30 HKT; Saturday 12th December, 2015
STADIUM: Kowloon Bay Park
SOUTH CHINA 4:0 DREAMS
(Match report by Jacob Panons)
(South China goalscorers: Luiz Carlos 58′; Awal 71′, 90’+4′; Itaparica 84′)
A flurry of late goals resulted in a comfortable 4 goal win for South China, as they continue to sit just a point behind leaders Eastern with a game in hand. Dreams appeared to be on top at the start of the game, playing a route 1 style of play down the right wing, while South China based their game around passing and often aimed to get the ball down to the left of the final third towards Cheung Kin Fung who looked like the danger man in the first half.
The away side’s defending might best have been described as being boisterous due to their consistency in giving away fouls and unnecessary free kicks, and this nearly came back to haunt them when Liang Zicheng went down easily in the box after a soft nudge by Pablo Gallardo and a penalty was rather harshly awarded to Mior’s team.
Luiz Carlos stuttered in his run up to try and throw off Pang Tsz Kin, but the keeper guessed correctly and dived to his left to gratefully collect the ball and keep the scores level.
South China came out the better team after half time and quickly looked like they were going to make amends for their penalty miss, and in the 58th minute a header from outside the box slipped through the Dreams defence towards Luiz Carlos who did superbly well to control the ball and volley it into the far corner from a tight angle to make it 1-0 to South China.
Dreams’ best chance of the second half was when Clayton found the ball at the edge of the box and did brilliantly to turn and get a shot away to the far corner that forced Ecuadorian keeper Christian Mora into a good save. Shortly afterwards, the reds went 2-0 up as Chan Siu Ki played a throw-in towards Awal who calmly placed the ball into the far corner.
South China looked to have gained their momentum and were constantly applying more and more pressure, and they got their third goal in the 84th minute when a failed clearance from a Chan Siu Ki cross fell to substitute Itaparica who brilliantly smashed the ball into the top left corner.
There was still time for them to grab their fourth and final goal of the match when Itaparica drilled the ball through the 6 yard box only for Pang Tsz Kin to spill the ball and gift Awal with an easy finish for his second goal of the match and the Caroliners the three points.
They now sit in 2nd with 15 points, just behind Eastern who have 16 points. Dreams remain in 3rd with 10 points ahead of Pegasus who have 9 points but also a game in hand.
DATE AND TIME: 14:30 HKT; Sunday 13th December, 2015
STADIUM: Tseung Kwan O Sports Ground
YUEN LONG 1:6 EASTERN
(Match report by Jeff Hardbattle)
(Yuen Long goalscorers: Park Chan Jong 74′)
(Eastern goalscorers: Moreira 10′; Giovane 30′, (PEN) 69′, 90’+11; Barisic 54′, 89′)
Last week’s revelation that head coach Yeung Ching Kwong was leaving Eastern to become an assistant coach at China League One side Meizhou Hakka FC, and that Chan Yuen Ting is to become the first female manager of a top flight club in Hong Kong might well prove to be a decisive move in the blues’ quest to bring home their first league title in over twenty long years, and the former HK Women’s National Team coach will be relishing the task even more after witnessing her new side display the kind of dominance and quality that makes it easy to see why Eastern still lead the rest of the pack.
They set out to punish Yuen Long early, and they didn’t have to wait long. With midfielder Xu Deshuai being fouled close to the home side’s danger area, he took advantage of the opportunity to deliver a wicked ball into the box for the oncoming Diego Moreira, who expertly guided his header past the helpless Felix Luk in goal to put his side 1:0 to the good.
20 minutes later it was 2:0, after a wonderful through-ball from Lee Hong Lim for Giovane split the Yuen Long defence apart, and the Brazilian’s swerving shot had too much on it for Luk to get a hand to and the ball bounced over him to double the visitors’ advantage.
Things got worse for the hosts after the break, and wonderful skill again from Lee Hong Lim allowed him to beat his marker to thread a low cross through for Andrew Barisic to convert with the simplest of tap-ins to take the score to 3:0. Giovane then added his second of the match 5 minutes later when Philip To was deemed to have handled the ball inside the area, and he accurately tucked the ball away in the bottom-right corner from the resulting penalty to make it 4:0.
Yuen Long did manage to grab themselves a consolation in the 74th minute, when Tam Lok Hin fed a low cross into the Eastern box, and Park Chan Jong had acres of space to smash home his effort into the roof of the net to at least give the New Territories side’s fans something to cheer about.
But Eastern were not quite done with their business for the day, and a minute before the end of normal time a pass from Giovane was steered into the back of the net by Andrew Barisic for his second goal to make it 5:1, despite protestations that the goal was offside.
Giovane then compounded the misery for Yuen Long and in the process sealed his hat-trick. A quick counter attack gave Barisic the chance to find Moreira with a great pass, before the latter squared the ball up for last year’s top scorer who put the ball beyond Felix Luk to complete a 6:1 rout.
Eastern therefore retain their place as league leaders with 16 points, a point ahead of 2nd placed South China (though the Caroliners do have a game in hand). Yuen Long slip further into the mire to 8th with only 3 points, one point ahead of last placed Wong Tai Sin.
DATE AND TIME : 17:30 HKT; Sunday 13th December, 2015
STADIUM: Yuen Long Stadium
Tobias Zuser is a Hong Kong based cultural researcher and founder of Offside.hk
Jeff Hardbattle is a sports journalist based in Hong Kong and managing editor of Offside.hk
Jacob Panons is an editor for Offisde.hk