Pegasus celebrated a 2-0 win over Rangers (PHOTO COURTESY OF HKFA)
Following the surprising decision by the Disciplinary Committee early last week to suspend both Happy Valley and Tin Shui Wai Pegasus due to outstanding insurance premiums, the affected clubs filed an appeal, which was granted last Saturday, Feb 27, just a few hours before the start of the Premier League’s third round.
Previously suspended for at least one week, the two teams were immediately reinstated and allowed to play their scheduled championship fixtures. However, it still remains unclear if the cancelled Sapling Cup semi-final between Happy Valley and Lee Man would be rescheduled as well. While the HKFA has not provided details for a rearrangement, Lee Man have pro-actively rejected such move, insisting that they should immediately advance to the final due to a regulation breach by their opponents.
Meanwhile, the Asian Football Confederation announced that Hong Kong will host Group J of this year’s AFC Cup, which features two local sides, Eastern and Lee Man, as well as Athletic 220 FC (Mongolia) and Tainan FC (Chinese Taipei). The six group games will take place between 14 and 20 May, however, it is not decided yet if they will be open to the general public. The winners of the group would eventually advance to the inter-zone play-off semi-finals in September, with Eastern and Lee Man tipped as potential contenders to claim the top spot.
The on-going COVID-19 wave notwithstanding, the Hong Kong Premier League is set to follow an ambitiously tight schedule to finish the rest of the season within the next three months. The Hong Football Association is also working on a plan to let the amateur division resume by the end of March, provided that the number of daily infections remains under control.
The coming fourth round of the Premier League has been spread out over four days, kicking off as early as Thursday night, with some of the teams finally returning to their actual home grounds.
Kitchee scored a late match winner against Southern in added time. (PHOTO COURTESY OF HKFA)
Kitchee vs Pegasus, Premier League, Mong Kok Stadium, Thu 4 Mar, 8 pm
After losing their Sapling Cup semi-final to Eastern, Kitchee can now put all their focus on defending the league championship. Last Saturday, they bagged three very important points for this journey, when they beat Southern in injury time. The Bluewaves took the lead in the 75th minute, when new Spanish midfielder Raúl Baena scored the first goal for his new club. Just moments later, however, Australian youngster Matthew Cahill followed suit with an equalizer for Southern. In the end it was Cleiton’s perfectly placed free kick in the 91st minute that made the difference. Kitchee’s star signing Dejan Damjanovic also made his debut that day, when he was subbed in for Matthew Orr for the last 25 minutes. In the meantime, Pegasus celebrated a 2-0 win over Rangers, with Marquinhos scoring a brace. However, it is doubtful that the Flying Horsemen would be able to challenge Kitchee on their home turf in Mong Kok.
Southern vs Eastern, Premier League, Mong Kok Stadium, Fri 5 Mar, 8 pm
On Friday night, Southern and Eastern will meet in what is most likely the most anticipated match of this round. Both sides dropped points last weekend, as Southern suffered a late loss to Kitchee, while Eastern had to settle for a 1-1 draw with Happy Valley, with striker Lucas Silva missing a penalty early in the game. Despite that, the Blues are currently still on top of the table with seven points, but Pegasus and Kitchee were able to catch up with the frontrunners.
Resources Capital vs Rangers, Premier League, Tsing Yi Sports Ground, Sat 6 Mar, 8 pm
On Saturday Resources Capital are finally returning to their designated home stadium in Tsing Yi, where they are going to host Rangers. The latter were unable to challenge Pegasus last weekend, but with all the veterans in their ranks, they should still have the quality on the pitch to outperform the young RCFC side. Rangers also just announced the signing of Philip Chan Siu-kwan, who previously fell out of favour with Southern and has been searching for a new club ever since. Meanwhile, Resources Capital have clearly humble ambitions this season, and have already declared that they would mostly focus on developing youth players while trying not to put too much attention on the results. Nonetheless, the gulf in quality was still visible last weekend, when they suffered a 1-5 defeat against Lee Man.
Eastern and Happy Valley shared points last weekend. (PHOTO COURTESY OF HKFA)
Lee Man vs Happy Valley, Premier League, Tseung Kwan O Sports Ground, Sun 7 Mar, 3 pm
While Lee Man were expected to bag an easy win against Resources Capital, the encounter last weekend still marked a very important match for Michael N’dri, who announced his retirement right after. The 36-year-old French striker has been a big factor for Lee Man’s success over the last years, and even for his farewell match he did not hold back and instead scored another brace. It is yet to see if Lee Man can fully substitute the French dangerman in the coming weeks, but they seem to have secured a great replacement in Kim Seung Yong, who also scored a double that day. This weekend, Lee Man will be up against Happy Valley though. Both teams should have met in the Sapling Cup semi-final last week, and with the Greens being denied that opportunity, they could now use this match to prove their point.
Eastern vs Kitchee, Premier League, Mong Kok Stadium, Wed 10 Mar, 8 pm
Eventually, there is one particular day that local football fans should mark in their calendar, as archrivals Eastern and Kitchee will have their first league clash on coming Wednesday at Mong Kok Stadium, with the winner most likely climbing to the top of the table. The recent encounter in the Sapling Cup semi-final, which Eastern won 1-0, has proven to be an emotional affair, as many of the players in each team are up against their former clubs as well, including Roberto Affonso, Sandro, Jared Lum, and Lucas Silva.
HONG KONG NEWS