Zhang's saves help to put Caroliners top
South China goalkeeper performs brilliantly to keep a clean sheet and break Sun Hei hearts
South China rose to the top of the table after scrambling to a 1-0 victory over Xiangxue Sun Hei in their First Division League match at Mong Kok Stadium yesterday.
In a tense match that saw four bookings on each side, Brazilian striker Detinho scored an opportunist goal in the 15th minute to give South China a badly needed win. But the hero of the hour was goalkeeper Zhang Chunhui who made a couple of brilliant saves to stave off Sun Hei attacks.
Both South China and Kitchee, who dropped two points against Rangers on Thursday night, are on 32 points after 14 matches, but the Caroliners stay in front because of their victory over Kitchee in the first round. With only four matches left for both sides, the encounter between the two leaders next month could prove to be the highlight of the season.
South China team convener Steven Lo Kit-shing was optimistic about their prospects in the league after the victory, but he also slammed the performance of his charges for slacking off after taking an early lead.
'We were in control of the match until we scored the goal. The players then became too conservative, fearing to lose the goal advantage, and allowed Sun Hei too many chances to come back,' said Lo. 'Having said that, I would also pay tribute to our goalkeeper Zhang for his consistently high performance throughout.'
The goal came after Li Haiqiang floated in a free kick from the left. Sun Hei goalkeeper Chan Ka-ki cleared the ball with a weak punch, leaving Detinho a simple task to slot home from close range.
Sun Hei then created a lot of scoring chances but their efforts were in vain due to the outstanding Zhang, particularly in stoppage time, when Sun Hei debutant Antonio Serrano Davila, from Peru, had a great chance but again his effort was well saved by Zhang.
'Our defence was under great pressure because the opponents pressed hard for the equaliser,' said Zhang. 'But we were still able to hang in there.'
In the earlier doubleheader fixture, Happy Valley, fielding a half-strength side because of injury and suspension, managed a 1-1 draw against Lanwa Redbull. Gerard Ambassa Guy and Poon Man-tik were both suspended while Lee Wai-man, Shum Kwok-keung, Fan Chun-yip and Fabio Alcantara were all sidelined because of injury.
Poon Yiu-cheuk opened the scoring in the 37th minute for Valley with a penalty kick, but Evanor Fantin's own goal in the 60th minute put Lanwa back on equal terms.