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Wednesday, April 19, 2017, 18:22
Relegation decider in HKPL after ACL defeat for Eastern
By Jeff Hardbattle
Wednesday, April 19, 2017, 18:22 By Jeff Hardbattle

Injury-ravaged Eastern were unable to prevent a 0-1 loss to Suwon Bluewings in the ACL. (Photo courtesy of HKFA.com)

Eastern succumbed to an eventual 0-1 loss to Korean giants Suwon Bluewings in the Asian Champions League on Tuesday night, but they can once again hold their heads high after their wounded party managed to frustrate the former K-League champions for much of the game. Chan Yuen-ting’s side will next be in action on April 12 when they once again take on Suwon in Korea as their learning curve in the competition continues.

With continental football now out of the way for the next few weeks, there are some big games in the Premier League on the horizon, starting on Friday with a relegation twelve pointer between the bottom two sides, as Round 18 is set to commence.

HONG KONG FC v GLORY SKY, Premier League, HKFC Stadium, Mar 17, 8:00 pm

After their miraculous 221 away win over Tai Po a fortnight ago, Hong Kong FC can go a long way to guaranteeing their survival with a win over Glory Sky on Friday, with just a point separating them at the foot of the table. Undoubtedly the match with most at stake this round, the home side will be buoyed by that performance in particular, and Frederik Schipper who scored the winner believes his side can build on this. “Spirits in the group are high”, says the Dutchman. “The fact that we beat Glory Sky earlier in the season adds to our confidence, and we hope that the fans will get behind us again just as they have all season”.

Glory Sky need to go back to November of last year for the last time they gained a point in the league, and although they showed some resistance in their last 1:2 defeat to Pegasus, they come into this match in poor form. They can count on Everton Camargo, but fans can expect a tight, cautious games where tensions could well boil over.

Hong Kong FC snatched victory the last time the two met in a 3-2 win last October. (Photo courtesy of HKFA.com)

SOUTHERN v TAI PO, Premier League, Aberdeen Sports Ground, Mar 18, 2:30 pm

Southern’s 0-3 loss to Tai Po last week in the Sapling Cup will serve as a tough reminder to the Aberdeeners that they still have plenty of work to do this season, with the two sides ready to square off once again this weekend. The result rarely looked in doubt in truth, and with Southern largely fielding a full-strength squad there can be no complaints either. It is clear that they will be taking this match much more seriously, however, with the club currently in fifth place in the table

Tai Po, in contrast, looked majestic all over the pitch and booked their place in the Sapling Cup final in style. Lucas da Silva put in a man-of-the-match performance, grabbing a brace for himself with an earlier strike coming from Tan Chun-lok. It is fair to say that the Greens’ recent form has been hit and miss, and they desperately need to find some consistency to stay in the hunt for a playoff spot.

Tai Po will meet Southern again after knocking them out of the Sapling Cup last week. (Photo courtesy of HKFA.com)

EASTERN v SOUTH CHINA, Premier League, Mong Kok Stadium, Mar 18 , 5:30 pm

Eastern suffered a shock exit in the Sapling Cup semi-finals last weekend in a 1-2 defeat to Pegasus, and the fact that the game went into extra time may well have had a negative impact on their Champions League fixture. Still, the Blues remain on course for a second consecutive top flight title, and naturally it is victories in tricky matches such as these that decide championships.

South China have undergone a slight reversal of fortunes of late, and after a solid 4-0 win over Hong Kong FC last time out, they now find themselves back in the more respectable position of third place. Nikola Komazec also found the net for the first time in seven games, and hopefully this will signal a return to form for him going forward. The Caroliners proved to be tough opposition the last time they faced Eastern, where they more than held their own in a 1-1 draw.

KITCHEE v RANGERS, Premier League, Mong Kok Stadium, Mar 19, 2:30 pm

Any slip-up from Eastern could allow Kitchee to reassert themselves in the title race, and there is still every chance that Alex Chu and his squad can secure the league’s top honours for the eighth time. The Bluewaves were extremely impressive in their 4-1 win over Yuen Long, with Sandro and Jared Lum both scoring braces in a match that highlighted the gulf between the two teams despite their close proximity in the table.

Former Kitchee favourite and Rangers captain Jordi Tarres will be eager to cause an upset, with his side having produced some tidy performances but with little to show for it in the league. Rangers managed to salvage a 1-1 draw in their last match at home to Southern, with Lai Yiu-cheong bagging the equaliser in the final minute of normal time. Kitchee, despite being favourites, will be in doubt that this will be a tough match.

Kitchee remain very much alive in the title race. (Photo courtesy of HKFA.com)

R&F v PEGASUS, Premier League, Siu Sai Wan Sports Ground, Mar 19 , 5:30 pm

Still not quite out of danger, R&F look as though they may limp over the finish line to safety, but some of their recent showings have left a lot to be desired. They looked very out of their depth in their 0-4 loss to Eastern two weeks ago, and it may have been a very different debut season had they not secured the signing of local talent Chuck Yiu-kwok. They did beat Pegasus back in September, and this will hopefully serve as a catalyst to putting in better displays for their fans.

Pegasus are in line for consecutive Sapling Cup honours after knocking out Eastern after extra-time with Travis Major scoring both goals for his side, the second literally just before the match was due to head to penalties. Facing the prospect of failing to qualify for the playoffs via the league, cup success may be the only way to salvage a season of ups and down for Kevin Bond’s squad.

Pegasus are in the Sapling Cup final after a shock win over Eastern. (Photo courtesy of HKFA.com)


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