Eastern hope for return of glory days

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 December, 2007, 12:00am

Eastern hope history will repeat itself when they take on Kitchee in the Choi Fung Hong Senior Shield final at Hong Kong Stadium today - 51 years after the two sides met in the final of the same competition.

Eastern emerged 2-1 winners in the 1956 Shield final, but things couldn't be more different for the two sides as they prepare to clash more than half a century later.

Eastern returned to the First Division this season by virtue of a Hong Kong FA special resolution. The club spent years in the doldrums after becoming one of Hong Kong's most dominant sides of the 1990s.

Eastern are underdogs today, but manager Peter Leung Shou-chi (pictured) was manager when they last lifted the Senior Shield in 1994.

'Things are definitely different from when we last won the Senior Shield all those years ago. We're not considered one of the biggest clubs in Hong Kong anymore and we will be challenging a much more established club [Kitchee], who have lots of cup final experience,' said Leung.

'Only a couple of our players - Fladimir Freitas and Fabio Alcantara - have played in a cup final at the stadium. It's going to be a new experience for most of the boys.

'We have a few injuries. Sham Kwok-pui and Leung Tsz-chun are both struggling and probably won't start. We face a huge task against Kitchee, but anything can happen in a cup final,' added Leung.

Kitchee are the hot favourites. With players such as Cameroonian striker Julius Akosah and Macedonia international Goran Stanouski, the club go into the game full of confidence, especially after knocking out South China 2-1 in the semi-finals earlier this month.

Eastern earned their berth for today by defeating Happy Valley 1-0 and the side will be looking to striker Rodrigo Andries Galvao for inspiration again.