Caroliners and Dickies set up 'people's choice' final
Arch-rivals South China and Instant-Dict set up an FA Cup showdown after labouring to semi-final victories before a crowd of 4,074 spectators at the Mongkok Stadium last night.
Defending champions Instant-Dict had the easier victory of the two matches after knocking out Yee Hope 2-1, while South China needed a penalty and a Franz Blizenec glancing header to beat Sing Tao 2-0 and set up the 'people's choice' final on Sunday at the Hong Kong Stadium.
Both Instant-Dict and South China coasted to easy first-round victories earlier in the week but they had to work much harder to earn a final appearance in the season-ending tournament in what is a repeat of last month's Viceroy Cup final which South China won 3-0.
After a goalless first half and a few early scares by the Sing Tao attack, South China eased into the driver's seat when they broke the deadlock after being awarded a penalty in the 68th minute.
Sing Tao defender Paul Masefield was adjudged to have handballed under pressure while trying to cut out South China winger Chan Chi-hong's cross.
South China skipper Leslie Santos wasted no time burying the spot kick in the top left corner of the net to put the Caroliners 1-0 ahead.
South China extended the scoring in the 82nd minute when Austrian midfielder Franz Blizenec's glancing header from former Chinese international midfielder Wu Qunli's freekick eluded Sing Tao goalkeeper Leung Cheuk-cheung.
South China winger Lee Kin-wo could have made it 3-0 but he stroked his attempt well over the crossbar in injury time.
Sing Tao had several chances to put the ball away but Yugoslav forward Zeljko Gavrilovic muffed good opportunities, including an attempt in the 80th minute when he exchanged passes with Wai Kwan-lung but shot tamely at South China goalkeeper Kevin Lok Kar-win.
South China forward Sheldon Thomas who was the victim of some dreadful tackling, said he was looking forward to Sunday's final against Instant.
'It's going to be another tough game for us. We managed to beat Instant 3-0 last time but the game was by no means easy.
'It was a tough match tonight. We had our chances and fortunately we broke the ice with the penalty and from then, it was slightly easier for us,' said the 23-year-old Trinidad and Tobago striker.
Earlier, it took more than an hour's sustained pressure before Instant finally opened the scoring in a game where Instant outplayed their opponents in most departments in the match.
Instant's emphatic victory was better than the scoreline suggested as they outplayed their opponents for long periods although they were unable to break the deadlock until the 63rd minute.
Tim Bredbury's freekick was headed on by Ian Baird for Ricky Cheng Siu-chung who flung himself forward to head home from point-blank range.
Instant got their second thanks to some marvellous work down the right wing by defender Dimitre Kalkanov.
The mercurial Bulgarian defender swept past his marker when he knocked the ball forward for himself and with amazing dexterity managed to keep the ball in.
The 32-year-old then spotted Baird unmarked in the box before whipping the ball across for the former Leeds United forward to nod home.
Yee Hope had at least two chances to score and despite the exploits of their nippy midfielder Davey Williamson, who had a fine game, Yee Hope just didn't have the firepower up front to cause much alarm to the South China defence.
Yee Hope did get a consolation goal in the dying minute when midfielder Chung Kin-hei's 20-yard grounder squeezed under the body of Mick Leonard before rolling over the goalline.
But the goal came much too late for Yee Hope who nonetheless bowed out of the season with their heads held high.
Baird, who passed a fitness test before the match, said: 'Yee Hope came here tonight to get 10 men behind the ball and all credit to them because they did well.
'It doesn't matter who we play in the final. It's just nice to be in it. Now we have to go on and win it,' said the striker before knowing the outcome of the later match.