Caroliners back in the big time
South China won the first title of the season thanks to a last-gasp penalty as they defeated Xiangxue Sun Hei 2-1 in the Choi Fung Hong Senior Shield final at Hong Kong Stadium yesterday.
With one minute to go before full-time and the score deadlocked at 1-1, Chung Kin-hei of Sun Hei handed the opposition the game on a plate. Second-half substitute Cheng Siu-wai seemed to have little chance of scoring as he came in off the right flank, but Chung knocked him down and the referee had no hesitation in awarding South China a penalty, which was calmly converted by marksman Tales Schutz.
Sun Hei threw everything they had at South China in the remaining four minutes of injury time, but came up short. The win provided the Caroliners, who needed a special dispensation from the Football Association to stay in the top flight after finishing in the relegation zone last season, with entrance into next year's AFC Cup.
The award presentation was marred by some ugly scenes as a group of angry Sun Hei fans threw water bottles at the referee and his assistants, who then refused to accept their mementos for safety reasons.
Chow Man-hei, team convener of Sun Hei, was disappointed that the referee had made the penalty decision at such a critical time. 'It was not an obvious foul by Chung as he only went for the ball. There was only one minute left. A penalty at that stage certainly killed us off,' he said.
'An experienced referee should consider the impact of a penalty before he makes such a decision.'
The Sun Hei official, however, paid tribute to the performance of both teams, saying all the players worked extremely hard to contribute to a good cup final.
'We had our chances but failed to take them, while South China also gave their best,' Chow said.
'It was a good game for the fans who came to the stadium this afternoon and they should not be disappointed.'
The attendance of 4,980 fans was a season record, though the figure included 1,000 supporters who had been invited by the sponsor of the tournament.
Having spent over HK$10 million on the club this season, South China convener Steven Lo Kit-shing was the happiest person in the ground - even though the victory meant he had to splash out another HK$330,000 in bonuses for the players.
'The title has certainly boosted my confidence in investing in local soccer,' said Lo. 'We can now represent Hong Kong in the AFC Cup next season which means we need a stronger team. Our next target will be the League Cup, while the FA Cup and the league title are also on our radar.'
Sun Hei, who dominated the opening stages, opened the scoring in the 40th minute when Lo Chi-kwan met a Lee Kin-wo cross from the right and tapped home from close range. In the second half, the Caroliners pushed hard for the equaliser and their diligence paid off in the 69th minute. Towering forward Detinho chested down the ball for Wong Chun-yue, whose half volley from 12 metres crashed into the top right corner of the net, leaving Sun Hei goalkeeper Domingos Chan no chance at all.