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Tai Po Fall 3-1 to North Korea’s April 25 in Intense AFC Cup Game

An Intense game between Tai Po and April 25 in the AFC Cup. Photo by Ken Wu

AFC Cup Group I – Third Match Day

WooFoo Tai Po 1

Harrison Sawyer ’54

April 25 (DPRK Korea) 3

Kim Yu Song ‘3, ’72, Son Phyong II ’43

A fiery encounter at Mong Kok stadium saw North Korean side, April 25, defeat the home side, Tai Po 3-1 in a crucial AFC Cup group I top of the table clash. Both Tai Po and April 25 had 100% records and both were looking to gain another crucial three points to edge them closer to the knock out stages. The technically superior and faster North Koreans were a level above Tai Po and were worthy of their win though Tai Po did play with grit and persistence and it was not a straight forward victory. 

Eager with anticipation and with the support of a bumper home crowd, Tai Po got off to less than ideal start when they conceded within three minutes which left them with a mountain to climb. A misplaced pass from the Tai Po defence was picked up by Phyong-il and the winger crossed in for Kim Yu-song to easily head home. 

The AFC Cup game was an intense affair. Photo: Chris KL Lau

In the early stages, Tai Po struggled to keep possession of the ball or even touch the ball as the North Koreans quick passing and movement off the ball meant that Tai Po were constantly chasing the visitors. Tai Po slowly worked their way back into the game and in the 21st minute, Joao Emir unleashed a shot from outside the box which cracked against the ball. Tai Po seemed to be edging back when Son Phyong-il popped up at the back post to head home and April 25 seemed to have sealed the game before half time.

Tai Po came out at the half with greater intention to pull themselves back into the game and in the 49th minute, Igor Sartori had a header which went just wide. April 25 also kept up the pressure and in the 51st minute, Pak Myong Song had a shot which was saved. Mong Kok stadium erupted in the 54th minute when Harrison Sawyer’s header went in off the post and the deficit was reduced to 2-1.

April 25 started to come back again in an attempt to build up their lead and Kim Yu Song had a scuffed shot on the 55th minute and also a header past the post in the 59th minute. The game then slowed down considerably and opened up as both sides ventured forwards.  The action picked up again when April 25 captain, Rim Chol Min, had his shot parried away yet the decisive blow was dealt on the 72nd when April 25 controversially made it 3-1 with Kim Yu-song again heading a crucial goal. The goal was disputed as it seemed an April 25 player was injured and needed treatment and play seemed to slow down but the game continued and the player came back on; yet in the midst of all of this Tai Po had a loss of concentration and the North Koreans took advantage and the game was all but over.

James Legge of the Hong Kong Football Podcast said the third goal standing was a little bizarre though Tai Po should have kept their focus and played to the whistle. 

“I found it bizarre that the third goal stood. The player had clearly gone off for treatment and re-entered the pitch without being waved on by the referee. But Tai Po did such a poor job defending the attack that it’s hard to feel too sorry for them.”

Photos from the game by Ken Wu (Wildeast Football)

Chris Edwards, a travelling football fan from Shenzhen, said the third goal may not have complied with the rules of the game.

“I’ve never seen a player re-enter the pitch like that April 25 player did, that led to their 3rd goal. My understanding is that one of the officials has to allow a player back on the pitch, which happened later in the match. My gut feeling is that the goal probably shouldn’t have stood, but I’d be interested to know what the rules actually are on this sort of thing.”

Time was run down by April 25. Photo. Chris KL Lau

The goal stood and April 25 went onto win and maintain their 100 percent win record though the winners did draw the ire of the crowd with their constant time wasting as they tried to rundown the clock.

Overall April 25 were worthy winners and according to James Legge, the domestic title challenge and the wear and tear on their squad could have been the reason behind Tai Po’s mistakes. 

“April 25 were a class above Tai Po, as had been expected. Their organisation, the speed of their passing, and their basic ability to keep the ball made them worthy winners on the night. But, by their recent high standards, it was a bad night for Tai Po, who just kept making silly errors, which maybe they find it easier to get away with in the Hong Kong Premier League. They’re also coming to the end of a gruelling season with a small squad, which might be affecting energy and concentration levels.”

Chris Edwards also agreed that the North Koreans were technically superior though this was overshadowed by their constant time wasting. 

“April 25 certainly seemed technically superior than Tai Po. Having said that, the amount of time wasting they took part in was pretty disgusting. I got the feeling that once they scored their first goal, they wanted to milk the clock, bit after scoring inside 3 minutes, that was a pretty weak tactic. April 25 were physically stronger than most of the Tai Po squad and appear to be well drilled.”

Tai Po will look to win their remaining AFC Cup games including a visit to North Korea on May 15th.

Photos from Tai Po’s previous AFC Cup game against Hang Yuen from Ryan Kam

Lee Man Lift the Hong Kong Sapling Cup 2019

Lee Man made history as they lifted their first ever trophy when they defeated Yuen Long 3-2 at a rain swept Mong Kok stadium. A five goal thriller saw Lee Man captain Fran Gonzalez score the winning goal with a header in extra time.

The Sapling Cup is a platform for younger players to gain more experience and each of the participating teams needs to field at least two U22 players.

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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