Published: 10:22, May 21, 2021 | Updated: 10:21, May 21, 2021
Lee Man humiliate future league champions
By Tobias Zuser

Kitchee and Eastern will face each other for the title decier on May 23. (PHOTO COURTESY OF HKFA)

The brief championship and relegation round, which is meant to add an extra layer of excitement this year, is already in full swing. All clubs are carrying forward their points from the league, so only Kitchee and Eastern are still in the title fight, but so far it has been Lee Man who play like the championship is on the line. Starting off with a 1-0 win over Kitchee last Saturday, inflicting the first loss of the season to the reigning champions, the Bees also humiliated powerhouse Eastern, beating the title contenders 2-1 with formidable goals by Ngan Lok-fung and former Meizhou Hakka defender Tsui Wang-kit.

In the end, this has not changed the conditions for this year’s title race. With only one more game to play, Kitchee and Eastern are on same points, and will face off for the decisive finale on Sunday, May 23, 3 pm, at Hong Kong Stadium. However, given the priority of head-to-head results, Kitchee have a slight advantage. The previous league encounters ended in a 0-0 draw as well as a 1-0 win for the defending champions. This means that Kitchee would even get the trophy if the game ends in another draw. On the other hand, Eastern have it in their own hands to crown themselves league champions as long as they defeat their opponents.

That said, both clubs did not look that great last week, as they struggled under the summer heat with some Premier League players like Jared Lum or Dani Cancela questioning the early afternoon kick offs. But Kitchee and Eastern also obviously tried to save energy for the last big game, knowing that the penultimate round would not change the odds for them. Hence, especially Pegasus benefitted from a depleted Kitchee outfit and celebrated a 2-1 win on Wednesday afternoon.

On Sunday, Lee Man and Pegasus will also find themselves in a meaningful match, as the third place - and with it a potential spot in the 2022 AFC Cup – is still in reach for both of them. The sides will meet each other on Sunday, May 23, 5:30 pm at Mong Kok Stadium. Originally, the last two games of the championship group were scheduled at the same time, but as they do not affect each other, the Hong Kong Football Association agreed to move the kick off to allow spectators to visit both matches if they wish.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Football Club made an important step towards winning the 1st Division, beating runners-up North District 3-0 at Fanling Recreation Ground. HKFC are now five points clear on top, with just four rounds left to play.

Before the big season finale of the 2020/2021 Hong Kong Premier League on Sunday, the penultimate round of the relegation group will take place on Saturday with another double header in Siu Sai Wan.

Rangers thrashed Resources Capital 6-0 at Siu Sai Wan Sports Ground. (PHOTO COURTESY OF HKFA)

RANGERS vs SOUTHERN, Premier League (Relegation Group), Siu Sai Wan Sports Ground, May 22, 3 pm

Rangers and Southern are facing off on Saturday afternoon in what will be a direct fight for winning the relegation group, which will not come with silverware but at least a 200,000 cash prize. The Aberdeeners are currently on top after beating Happy Valley 2-1 last weekend courtesy of goals by player coach Zesh Rehman and striker James Ha. But Rangers did not lose any ground after smashing Resources Capital 6-0 in their respective match, with Philip Chan Siu-kwan and Walter Junior scoring each two goals before Lo Kwan-yee netted a screamer from around 40 yards.

HAPPY VALLEY vs RESOURCES CAPITAL, Premier League (Relegation Group), Siu Sai Wan Sports Ground, May 22, 5:30 pm

On the same afternoon, Happy Valley are given the last opportunity to avoid finishing bottom of the league. However, this means that they not only need to beat Resources Capital that day, to whom they have already lost twice, but also getting a result in the ultimate round on May 30. That said, it remains unlikely that a club really gets relegated at the end of the season, as some teams traditionally cease to exist during the summer due to force majeure. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic now largely under control, hopes are high that there will be again nine or ten clubs participating in Hong Kong’s topflight next year.  

Lee Man's Tsui Wang-kit scored the match winner against Eastern. (PHOTO COURTESY OF HKFA)

KITCHEE vs EASTERN, Premier League (Championship Group), Hong Kong Stadium, May 23, 3 pm

On Sunday afternoon, Kitchee and Eastern will finally meet for the all-decisive championship clash – and the winner takes it all. Despite the summer heat, the match is expected to draw a big crowd, however, there is at least no risk for a sell-out at Hong Kong Stadium that day. Back in 2017, both clubs were in a similar situation, when Kitchee thrashed Eastern 4-1 to win the title. Four years later, the Blues are given the chance for revenge. Both sides are relying heavily on the star strikers this season. Kitchee’s Dejan Damjanovic is on track to become the league’s top scorer, while Sandro – who bagged a hat-trick for Kitchee in 2017 – is still in great form. That said, both sides are also missing some of their regular starters. Kitchee’s usual goalkeeper, Wang Zhenpeng, has suffered a finger injury and will only be able to return in autumn. Meanwhile, Eastern are still without Brazilian striker Everton Camargo and centre-back Eduardo Praes.

PEGASUS vs LEE MAN, Premier League (Championship Group), Mong Kok Stadium, May 23, 5:30 pm

Later that day, Pegasus and Lee Man will fight for the third place in the league, which should also include a qualifying spot for the 2022 AFC Cup. Both sides have definitely gained momentum in the relegation round, beating Kitchee. However, Lee Man has arguably faced more serious opposition last weekend and outplayed the reigning champions with a great match plan. Finishing third would give the Bees at least some sort of satisfaction, especially after dropping out from the Sapling Cup due to a dispute over a rescheduled game.