By Tobias Zuser and Jeff Hardbattle.
Now at Round 12 of the Hong Kong Premier League, the teams have also entered the final quarter of the season – making every weekend count to increase or narrow the gap between each other, both at the top and at the bottom of the league.
This year’s overachievers Southern took on troubled title defenders Kitchee on Saturday, followed by a repeat of the midweek game between South China and Yuen Long, who met each other Tuesday at Tseung Kwan O Sports Ground where the Caroliners ran out as 2-1 winners.
On Sunday Pegasus faced the task of putting a halt to powerhouse Eastern‘s unbeaten run at Hong Kong Stadium, before Rangers and Wong Tai Sin faced each other in a head-to-head relegation battle that may well decide who finishes bottom of the pile. Tobias Zuser rounds up all of the action.
SOUTHERN 1:1 KITCHEE
(Southern goalscorers: José María 44′)
(Kitchee goalscorers: Jared Lum 45’+2′)
Kitchee missed out on a great opportunity to close the gap on Eastern, after drawing with a determined Southern squad that managed to upset last year’s champions once again after kicking them out of the Senior Shield back in December.
The main action of the game was limited to three minutes in the first half, when José María exploited an awful mistake by Kitchee goalkeeper Wang Zhenpeng, who let a cross slip through his fingers to allow the lurking Spaniard to tap the ball home. However, just 2 minutes later, Hong Kong-Australian Jared Lum pulled one back for his team with an awe-inspiring corner kick that he circled directly into the back of the net.
DATE AND TIME: 2:30pm, Saturday 20th February, 2016
STADIUM: Aberdeen Sports Ground
YUEN LONG 2:2 SOUTH CHINA
(Yuen Long goalscorers: 80′ Park Chan Jong, 85′ Aleksandar Randelovic)
(South China goalscorers: 18’ Ryan Griffiths, 78′ Mahama Awal)
South China had managed to overcome Yuen Long on their home soil last Tuesday, in a rescheduled Premier League match from earlier in the season. Now, in a repeat fixture just five days afterwards, the boys from the western New Territories had the chance to take revenge. And they did.
Everything looked as though South China would be taking home the points again, with Ryan Griffith’s heading his team in front and Mahama Awal slotting home from close range from a loose ball. However, it just took Yuen Long five minutes to turn the match around – though with some significant help from the Caroliners’ defense. The first goal was a gift from Bojan Malisic, whose weak pass to the goalkeeper was intercepted by Yuan Yang who set up South Korean striker Park Chan Jong to make it 2:1. A few moments after Griffiths was sent off, leaving South China with 10 players, his side’s defense failed to deal with a cross into the box that allowed Aleksandar Randelovic to equalise, albeit with the help of a deflection, to give the home side a share of the spoils.
With this draw, Yuen Long successfully avenged their latest defeat against the Caroliners, barring them from the opportunity to go in front of Eastern in the table. For the boys in orange, this point might prove itself to be very valuable in the relegation battle, as they currently occupy seventh in the league, 2 points ahead of Rangers and 5 points ahead of bottom-of-the-league Wong Tai Sin.
DATE AND TIME: 2:30pm, Saturday 20th February, 2016
STADIUM: Yuen Long Stadium
PEGASUS 0:0 EASTERN
Nevertheless, the game saw some rough play on both sides, with a total of nine bookings for foul play. Additionally, the pitch at Hong Kong Stadium still left the impression that it might need some more time to be at the expected standard for Premier League games. During half time, Chan Yuen Ting tried to shuffle the pack and replaced Andrew Barisic with Michel Lugo, but to no avail. For Pegasus, Hong Kong national team striker Jaimes McKee celebrated his comeback in the 62nd minute, with his last appearance dating back to November 2015. In a match of few clear chances, the best of them undoubtedly fell to Pegasus striker Admir Adrovic, who failed to find the net with only Yapp Hung Fai to beat.
Although Eastern missed a great chance to increase the gap on their rivals South China and Kitchee, they still sit at the top of the league, as both teams could only manage draws this weekend. Pegasus stay in sixth spot – and are all but out of danger from relegation this season.
DATE AND TIME: 2:30pm, Sunday 21st February, 2016
STADIUM: Hong Kong Stadium
RANGERS 2:1 WONG TAI SIN
(Rangers goalscorers: 20′ Ernesto Gómez, 79′ Mauricio Correa Da Luz)
(Wong Tai Sin goalscorers: 25’ Liu Pui Fung)
In what was probably the most significant game of the weekend, Rangers came out on top in a relegation dogfight against Wong Tai Sin.
Both teams kept the game quite open for long periods, despite the cold weather and the unsatisfying conditions of the artificial pitch at Kowloon Bay Park. In the 20th minute, newly signed 33-year old striker Ernesto Gómez scored his first Premier League goal for Rangers after taking advantage of some confusion at the back. However, Wong Tai Sin reacted immediately and Liu Pui Fung equalized just five minutes later.
Most of the 294 spectators that evening may have been expecting another draw, but Mauricio Correa Da Luz made the difference, with probably one of his most important goals this season that secured Rangers three crucial points.
After their defeat, Wong Tai Sin slip to the bottom of the league, and are now strongest candidates for relegation this season. Rangers are now in eigth place, 3 points ahead of the troubled district team.
DATE AND TIME: 5:30pm, Sunday 21st February, 2016
STADIUM: Kowloon Bay Park
BOCG LIFE HONG KONG PREMIER LEAGUE TABLE (21/2/2016)
|Team||Game||Win||Draw||Loss||Goal Gain||Goal Loss||Goal Diff||Point|
|9||Wong Tai Sin||10||0||3||7||6||16||-10||3|