Make that a treble - Kitchee conquer all
Kitchee completed a club-record treble yesterday after a dramatic recovery in extra time of the FA Cup final saw them go on to defeat TSW Pegasus in a penalty shoot-out.
Pegasus, who lost to Kitchee in both the league championship and the League Cup final this season, were on course for sweet revenge at Hong Kong Stadium with a 3-1 lead in extra time, but they contrived to concede two goals in seven minutes of added time, brought about by a late mass scuffle on the pitch, and were beaten 4-3 in the penalty ritual.
While jubilation broke out among Kitchee players after Lo Kwan-yee scored their fifth penalty, to end their record season, Pegasus coach Chan Hiu-ming and his players were a study in contrast. Chan's future with Pegasus remains unknown since they were once challenging for three titles but have ended up empty-handed.
For Kitchee's Spanish player Roberto Losada, it was a perfect way to finish his career. The 35-year-old announced his retirement at the end of the match in which he scored the equaliser in a goalmouth melee after a corner kick. 'It's just amazing,' said Losada, who won the Player of the Year award last season for helping Kitchee to their first league championship in 47 years. 'I have won everything in my two years in Hong Kong - two league championships, the Player of the Year title and now two cups. I am not happy to finish my career, but I am happy it finished this way.'
The Spaniard, who played for La Liga sides Mallorca and Real Valladolid before joining Kitchee, said he would likely stay in Hong Kong next season, as a youth team coach for the team.
Midfielder Lo Kwan-yee paid tribute to their team spirit. 'Our legs were tired after a long season - the AFC Cup followed by many domestic matches - and we were in the worst situation trailing by two goals in extra time,' said Lo, one of the favourites for this year's Player of the Year award to be announced tomorrow. 'Although our bodies were weak, our minds kept telling us we should not give it up when there was still a chance. It's not too often you score two goals in extra time but we made it. All the boys must take credit.'
After their 2-0 defeat by Arema of Indonesia in the midweek AFC Cup round of 16, Kitchee lost the form and sharpness that took them top of the local league. However, they were able to exploit a defensive lapse in the first half when Chu Siu-kei crossed in from the right after a neat one-two with Yago Gonzalez. Unmarked Liang Zicheng took an easy effort against stranded Pegasus goalkeeper Hisanori Takada.
Pegasus upped the tempo after the break and it came as little surprise when second-half substitute Leandro Silva put them back on equal terms. The Brazilian made it 2-1 after the match went into extra time and when his partner up front Jaimes McKee added to the tally in the 109th minute, it seemed they were home and dry with 10 minutes left.
But Kitchee's Lo immediately closed the gap to 3-2 just one minute later and then ugly scenes broke out after Fernando Recio brought down Pegasus striker Godfred Karikari for a yellow card.
Players from both sides as well as coaching staff on the pitch were engaged in some pushing and shoving. Referee Ng Chiu-kok sent Recio off after the incident, but Pegasus lost their concentration and allowed Losada to score the all-important equaliser.
A spokesman of the HKFA said they would study the video of the incident before deciding if disciplinary measures were needed.