A spirited Hong Kong performance at Hong Kong Stadium in the second leg of the 39th edition of the annual Guangdong–Hong Kong Cup was not enough to prevent their neighbours, Guangdong (Province) from reclaiming the title for the fourth time in a row.
In the wide open spaces of Hong Kong stadium, a frenetic game was played out at 100 miles per hour spurred on by a frenzied crowd. Despite Guangdong having the lion share of the possession and chances, Hong Kong held onto a well-deserved 1-1 draw though their northern neighbours again claimed the title 4-3 over two legs.
Hong Kong, who technically fielded a ‘B’ team of fringe players, fought hard to claw back the deficit from the 3-2 away defeat they suffered at the Guangdong Provincial People’s Stadium in the first leg and despite all their efforts, they could not overcome the much stronger Guangdong side which featured some Guangzhou R&F players such as Chen Zhizhao and Lu Lin. Under the stewardship of coach Liu Chun Fai, the Hong Kong side played with flair and passion and this tournament proved to be a worthy proving ground and a learning experience for all involved.
Established in 1979, the annual tournament has allowed the two sides the chance to play for regional pride and more importantly, bragging rights and has slowly evolved into a rough and tumble derby known for its intensity of play and close matches. Guangdong have won the tournament 24 times to Hong Kong’s 15 times. The noise generated by the home crowd of just under 5000 was intense and the small contingent of away supporters added to the raucous atmosphere.
From the off, Guangdong pressed hard and in the 3rd minute, they saw a volley go over the Hong Kong goal. In the 7th minute, Tam Lok Hin nearly put the home side ahead but his header went wide. In the 11th minute, Hong Kong had penalty calls turned down as Cheung Chi Yung went down in the box. Hong Kong pressed at all opportunities as the home side knew they had to pull back a goal to at least draw level. Their fight and persistence paid off in the 21st minute when Lai Lok Yin’s speedy cross found the head of Wong Tsz Ho who bulleted it past Luo Zuqing in the Guangdong goal. Guangdong nearly took the lead again in the 27th minute, when Shen Feng had his shot saved.
Guangdong regained their lead in the 64th minute with a pin point accurate free kick from Wang Song, who both curled and slammed home the ball, gave the Hong Kong keeper, Tsang Man Fai, no chance to save. As the second half wore on, tempers frayed and the fouls came thick and fast with a brief melee breaking out in the 72nd minute. The sense of animosity continued for the remainder of the game with Guangdong nearly sealing the win in the 78th minute when a header was cleared off the line and as Hong Kong piled on the pressure, Tse Long Hin had his thumping drive saved to deny a win. Guangdong held on to reclaim the trophy and Hong Kong came away with only pride and kudos.
In the women’s edition of the cup, Guangdong defeated their Hong Kong counterparts 3-0 to win the trophy for the second year in a row. This edition of the cup has proved to be the perfect ‘warm-up’ for the coming Asian Champions League games between Eastern and Guangzhou Evergrande over the next few months where the stakes will be much higher.