Happy days return as Caroliners turn back clock
Packed house gathers for top-of-the-table showdown
It was just like the good old days at Mong Kok Stadium yesterday as a capacity crowd thronged the stadium and dozens more were turned away at the gate.
The attraction of the potential league championship-deciding clash between co-leaders South China and Kitchee proved powerful enough to lure a capacity attendance of 8,426. More than 100 fans were denied access as the HKFA closed ticket windows 15 minutes before kick-off.
It is believed to be the best turnout for a match in domestic competition at Mong Kok since the early 1990s. The crowd comprised 7,700 paying customers and nearly 800 honorary ticket holders.
Not even the FA could give the exact year of the last full-house for a local match at the same stadium, but they said it was possibly in beginning of the 90s when an attendance of 8,505 was recorded.
The match ended in a 1-1 draw, a result that means the Caroliners are almost certain to become the new league champions, just one year after they required special dispensation from the FA to stay in the top flight after finishing second bottom.
The two teams are both on 39 points and South China only need to beat Lanwa Redbull in their final match on April 27, regardless of the result of the other match between Kitchee and Citizen. South China, however, have the better head-to-head record against Kitchee, which would determine the title in the event of the sides finishing level on points.
South China convenor Steven Lo Kit-shing was delighted with the result, not only because his side are holding a big advantage over Kitchee, but also playing in front of a packed stadium.
'We are happy to see so many fans come back,' said Lo. 'It shows the crowds are still there and we need to produce quality matches.'
Lo admitted they are in a better position to win the league title and hope his players will finish off the job in Dongguan.
'We need to travel to Dongguan for the match and we cannot take it for granted,' he said.
South China, who would have clinched the title with a win, went 1-0 down in the 57th minute when Kitchee striker Julius Akosah headed home after a corner from Gao Wen.
But Kitchee's jubilation was short-lived. Just one minute after the restart, Li Haiqiang let loose a powerful shot from 25 metres and the ball bounced before beating goalkeeper Wang Zhenpeng.
'The result was disappointing,' said Kitchee boss Ken Ng Kin. 'Neither side was able to perform in such a tense atmosphere. Our midfield failed to take control and we did not pass the ball well. We now need to win the final match and then see the result of South China before knowing whether we can win the title.'
Kitchee will play Citizen on April 29 and they are considering requesting that the match be changed to take place on the same date as the South China-Lanwa match.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong women's team lost 14-0 to North Korea in the 2008 Olympic Asia/Oceania qualifying event at Siu Sai Wan Sports Ground. It was the second consecutive defeat for the SAR team after suffering a humiliating 15-0 loss to Australia in their opening match.
The crowd at Mong Kok yesterday: 8,426