At a chilly and windswept Hong Kong stadium, high fliers Kitchee overcame their main adversaries Eastern 2-1 to claim the first major title of the Hong Kong season.
The deserved win was a major psychological boost for Kitchee as they currently lead Eastern in the Premier League by one point with the latter having one game in hand.
The final had an edge to the game as both teams had previously been at loggerheads over their Asian Champions League roles with league champions Eastern previously withdrawing due to a lack of funding which potentially paved the way for Kitchee to take the group stage. Eastern eventually found new sponsors and pushed to be included again which they got and Eastern are now in the group stages whilst Kitchee will have to take the long road and play two difficult qualifying games. The affair was drawn out and the dust has now settled but the team’s rivalry was intensified.
Kitchee dominated the first half and played fluid and attractive attacking football and though Eastern came back stronger in the second half, this was not enough. From the onset, Kitchee’s neat passing game meant that Eastern could not assert themselves in any way. Eastern did have a chance in the 4th minute with a direct free kick which flew past Kitchee’s left post. In the 6th minute, Sandro of Kitchee had a scoffed shot which was pushed wide and saved by the keeper for a corner; Sandro had another chance in the 8th minute but his touch was too light and he did not connect properly. The chances kept coming and on the 9th minute, Kitchee’s new Hungarian signing Vadocz volleyed but it was far and wide whilst on the 11th minute, Sandro again had another half chance.
Kitchee finally took the lead on the 16th minute when Andreas Lam’s header snuck in and Kitchee were deservedly infront. Chances were far and few between for Eastern who simply could not play to the best of their abilities. On the 40th minute, Saric of Eastern, had a great chance to equalise after an accurate cross from Lee Hong Lim but he failed to connect.
In the second half, straight from kick off, Eastern were caught off guard and Sandro nearly doubled their lead but his volley went straight to Yapp in-goal. In the 49th minute, Andreas Lam scoffed a shot which he should have finished with ease. Saric levelled the game for Eastern in the 54th minute when slack Kitchee defending allowed Saric to side foot home a goal and Eastern were back in the game.
Kitchee regained the lead in the 78th minute when Jared Lum poked home the winner after creative build up play from Sandro and Pedreira. A late rally from Eastern saw a fierce shot well saved by Zhenpeng Wang and Yapp had a downward header which almost went close. All in all Kitchee deserved to win this game as they were better all in aspects.
This major final win will give Kitchee a morale boost, belief and the momentum that they can win their qualifiers and make the group stages of the Asian Champions league. The game was a fiery affair and five yellow cards are a testament to this rivalry.
Eastern did not play to the best of their ability and Eastern will face opponents of a whole different class in the champions league group stages when they take on Chinese super league champions Guangzhou Evergrande, Kawasaki Frontale (J-League) and Suwon Samsung Blue Wings (K-League) and if Eastern play under-par against these teams then there is the danger they will be heavily beaten in each group round so hopefully this loss will be a wake up call for Eastern to raise their standards which they are more than capable of.