Instant miss a golden opportunity to clinch league title
INSTANT-DICT saw their hopes of winning the first round of the Hong Kong First Division dashed when they were held to a 1-1 draw by Golden at Mongkok Stadium last night.
The Dickies lead the table with 21 points after completing nine games in round-robin fixtures, but arch rivals South China could overtake them with a victory over Golden on Tuesday.
Instant-Dict manager Tam Wai-tong, however, was reluctant to concede the defeat meant the league was lost, saying: 'We've done our part and the ball is now in South China's court.
'A couple of our players were a bit tense tonight and didn't play up to their best but it was a tough match and I'm happy with the team's overall performance.
'Golden are no pushovers and if they can hold us to a draw they can do the same to South China. We could still end up winning the first stage.' Golden, who would have finished top in the first round of the J.League-style competition by beating Instant-Dict last night and South China on Tuesday, were without striker Anto Grabo.
Grabo was nursing a thigh injury but instead of taking a defensive approach, Chiu Chung-man and Lee Fook-wing were moved forward to support Lee Bullen in attack.
And Golden gave the Dickies a scare in the opening minute when defender Marlon Van Der Sander headed dangerously goalward, only to see the ball cleared on the line by Cheung Chi-tak.
They came close again in the 24th minute with Lee crossing the ball in from a narrow angle, but Instant-Dict's goalkeeper Mick Leonard managed to tip it away as the the charging Bullen homed in on goal.
The best chance in the first half, however, went to Instant-Dict in the 41st minute when a Wong Wai-tak's header hit the post.
Instant-Dict quickly put Golden goalkeeper Chan Hing-wing to the test after the break with a strong header from Ross Greer.
And as the attack resurged, Instant-Dict were awarded a penalty when Van Der Sander brought down striker Paul Foster. Greer blasted home to make it 1-0.
But the Dickies' celebrations lasted only six minutes as Bullen equalised for Golden with his seventh goal of the season.
Chiu floated a free kick from the left, Van Der Sander headed the ball on to the unmarked striker who stabbed it into the net.
Instant-Dict wasted two good chances when Foster blasted a shot inches over the bar from only 12 yards out, followed by midfielder Sean Edwards, who swa his effort go narrowly past the right-hand post.
Otis Roberts and Tang Chi-ming also squandered two Golden opportunities before Instant-Dict were reduced to 10 men in the 81st minute following defender Cheung being sent off for his second bookable offence.
A determined Instant-Dict pressed hard for the winner but luck was not with them. A Greer header hit the bar and Ng Kam-hung also missed from close range.