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Tianjin Quanjian Edge Kitchee 1-0 in Asian Champions League Group E Thriller

Axel Witsel and Anthony Modeste. Photo by Dennis Lo

Asian Champions League Group E

Kitchee 0

Tianjin Quanjian 1
‘Modeste ’89

Attendance: 6299

An inspired Kitchee pushed the Chinese Super League’s Tianjin Quanjian all the way to the end before falling to a 89th minute winner from Anthony Modeste which allowed the visitors to claim all three points with a 1-0 victory.

A packed Mong Kok stadium saw the French striker score from close range right at the death and it was a controversial goal which some claim was offside. Kitchee’s rejigged defence was outstanding and until that point, had held firm with Li Ngai Hoi and Kim Bongjin being especially impressive. The defeat ended Kitchee’ chances of progressing to the knock out stages whilst Tianjian Quanjian made it through and out of group E and celebrated a bright spot to eclipse their poor domestic league form.

Tianjin Quanjian and Kitchee battled all night. Photo by Dennis Lo

Kitchee contested each ball and were not without chances and could easily have taken the lead on many occasions which would have shifted the momentum of the game completely. Kitchee’s many chances included an opportunity in the 32nd minute when Forlan’s drive rebounded back off Tianjian’s keeper, Zhang Lu. Akande should have stuck the ball away but it was not meant to be. In the 54th minute, Vadocz drove a rasping shot past the past the Tianjian post whilst in the 60th minute, Jordi just failed to connect to an incisive pass from Vadocz. At the back, Kitchee keeper, Wang Zhenpeng, was dominant in his box and dealt with most of Tianjian’s aerial threat.

Tianjin Quanjian’s Axel Witsel dominated and dictated the midfield in the first half and his precision range of both short and long passing was impressive whilst winger Wang Yongpo was a constant threat with his dangerous crosses into the box; this was most true on the 25th minute when his cutting long cross was missed by a whisker by Modeste. Wang also struck a stunning half volley on the 21st minute when Pato’s low cross was hit by Wang and flew past the Kitchee post.

Axel Witsel, Anthony Modeste and Pato showed their world class skills in the first half but increasingly became frustrated and off the pace in the second half as Kitchee’s solid defending blunted most of Tianjin’s attacks.

Some claim Modeste was offside when he scored. Photo: Dennis Lo

Sadly, Kitchee’s great work rate, energetic off the ball running and constant hustling of Tianjin’s star names were all for no avail as, with time ticking down, Modeste poached the winning goal much to the dismay of the majority of the Mong Kok crowd.

In the press conference, Diego Forlan reflected on the tough defeat and stressed that Kitchee played extremely well.

“Kitchee had a really good game and we are in a really strong group. We beat Kashiwa and we also played really well when we played in Japan. We also played really well against Tianjin which is a really strong team with good players and we were unlucky at the end of the game and we had more chances than them. I am really happy as we proved that Kitchee can compete with any club.”

Paulo Sousa post game at Mong Kok stadium. Photo: Dennis Lo

Tianjin Quanjian manager, Paulo Sousa, was happy with his team’s effort and that fact that they qualified for the next round.

“I would like to congratulate my players because we have qualified from this group phase before the last group game which is a huge achievement for us. Regarding the quality and comparing with other teams, my players did a fantastic job as we have been working since December 25th to get through this group phase and we made it.”

RTHK radio sports commentator, Atom Cheung, stressed that, based on their grit and fight all night, Kitchee did not deserve to lose.

“I think Kitchee played well enough to win and we even heard Diego Forlan say that Kitchee had more chances than Tianjin and that they deserved to win. If Kitchee had taken their chances then it would have been a different game and Vadocz also had a great chance in the second half and shot just wide. There was a good share of possession on the offensive end for Kitchee and they did create chances so I do not think they deserved to lose and they could have won.”

Hong Kong football fan, Shinn Kawasaki, thought Kitchee did not deserve to lose the game in such a heart-breaking manner though lamented that football can be the cruel game.

“I feel like Kitchee played with a lot of heart and overall it was a well contested game which could have gone either way. Pato, Witsel, Modeste and Forlan showed their class while the lesser know Vadosch and Fernando stood out with their individual battles on the night. Both teams created chances but Tianjin took theirs in the 90th and while it’s cruel for the home fans, this is football.”

It often seems that the gap between the Hong Kong Premier league and the Chinese Super League is so vast and wide; though at a fervent Mong Kok stadium, Kitchee gave a display for Hong Kong fans to be proud of and showed that sometimes that all it just takes is heart, grit and determination.

Photos from the Kitchee’s games against Tianjin Quanjian and Kashiwa Reysol by Dennis Lo, Ken Wu, Ryan Kam.

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Christopher KL Lau was born in England and grew up in both England and Hong Kong, and has a background in media, education and non-profits. He also is a freelance writer / photographer and has written for a number of magazines, websites and newspapers around the world on many subjects ranging from the arts to travel. Chris is passionate about sports and its place in society and is keen to promote both Hong Kong and Chinese football to a wider audience.

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