Schutz strike helps shock Sparta
Patrik Berger was missing. The handful of fans who turned up last night at the Hong Kong Stadium were also left wondering where the rest of the beef was as Czech champions Sparta Prague were unceremoniously beaten 2-1 by a South China and Pegasus combination in the final of the Lunar New Year Cup.
If ex-Liverpool midfielder Berger's - the star turn at this tournament to usher in the Year of the Ox - absence was disappointing, the 7,850 fans who paid to watch the action still went home delighted.
Two first-half goals from South China's Tales Schutz and Kim Yeon-gun was more than enough to blunt the Berger-less Sparta. Schutz struck first in the 32nd minute when his predatory instincts saw him latch on to a long ball from Cristiano Pereira which the defence failed to clear. Pouncing on the lapse, Schutz calmly chipped Sparta goalie Matus Kozacik to give the home team the lead.
Schutz was involved in the second goal too, when just on half-time, he headed another long ball to Manoel Santos who set it up for the unmarked Kim and he drove a powerful low shot into the right-hand corner.
Sparta only had themselves to blame after missing a penalty in the 21st minute which would have swung the momentum their way. Coach Jozef Chovanec later admitted that it was the turning point of the match.
'If we had scored from that penalty kick, we would have been on top. But instead we were trailing 2-0 and it was hard after that,' Chovanec said. Ondrej Kusnir grabbed Sparta's consolation effort in stoppage time.
The hero of the 90 minutes was Pegasus goalie Li Jian. The Guangzhou native, who stayed behind to play in this tournament instead of going home to celebrate Chinese New Year with his family, found himself in the spotlight after team officials decided to ban first-choice goalie Noronha De Oliveira for his kung-fu style kick in the first game on Monday against the Hong Kong League XI.
Li was asked to take up the gloves and he rose to the occasion superbly when he guessed right and blocked the penalty kick - given after striker Jiri Jeslinek had been hacked down inside the box - from Sparta's Wilfried Guemiand. 'I was thrilled that I could contribute towards a great win,' said Li who with the rest of his teammates were given a US$2,000 bonus each for the victory by South China boss Steven Lo Kit-shing.
In the third place play-off, South Korean champions Suwon Bluewings defeated the Hong Kong League XI in a penalty shootout, 5-4, after a 0-0 scoreline in regulation time.