Caroliners revive AFC Cup hopes after holding off visitors
South China revived their hopes in the AFC Cup after a 1-0 win over Indian visitors East Bengal at Hong Kong Stadium last night, their first victory in group H after three games.
Striker Mateja Kezman, who had his 32nd birthday on Tuesday, scored the only goal in the 69th minute, heading home a cross from second-half substitute Au Yeung Yiu-chung.
But the former Serbia international will miss their next match when they travel to India in two weeks after picking up a second yellow card.
'It's a pity I cannot play in the match in India, but I am sure my teammates can win the game without me,' said Kezman, who admitted he did not play his best game against the visitors who launched a fierce attack in the closing stages.
But their efforts went in vain due mainly to the acrobatic saves from South China goalkeeper Yapp Hung-fai.
'It was always difficult against a team who came here with nothing to lose. But I am very happy as we took three very important points which we deserved to win,' Kezman said. 'In the end, our goalkeeper had a fantastic game. I like him a lot as he is doing very well in every game. He is young and can have a future in Europe, and I will try to do something to help him.'
But the goalscorer was a bit disappointed with the 7,300 fans, who jeered the home side before they broke the deadlock. 'When we are not doing well, we need the fans support to push the team and not do this after we went into the lead. The fans have to change their mentality to help us,' he said.
South China convener Steven Lo Kit-sing said they needed to continue their momentum as they still had three matches left. 'We have to win all the three remaining matches if we want to qualify to the next stage,' said Lo. 'Kezman will not be able to play in India but we still have other replacements like Cheng Lai-hin.'
Indonesia's Persipura, meanwhile, moved to the top of the group after a 3-0 win over Thai visitors Chonburi last night. The Indonesians are on seven points, while both Chonburi and South China have four, but the Thais are second with a better goal difference. East Bengal are last on one point.
In group F, 10-man TSW Pegasus scored a 5-3 win over home team VB of Maldives in Male. Forward Leandro Silva scored a hat-trick despite Wisdom Agbo's sending-off in the first half. Sriwijaya of Indonesia saw off Vietnam's Song Lam Nghe An 3-1. Sriwijaya lead the group with seven points and Pegasus are one behind.