Caroliners' final match puts pride on the line
South China will be playing for pride when they host group leaders Chonburi in their last AFC Cup group H match tonight.
With just five points from their previous five matches, the Caroliners' hopes of reaching the knockout stage have evaporated, but a victory over the Thai side at Hong Kong Stadium could help prop up the morale of the domestic powerhouses as well as the reputation of Hong Kong soccer.
'We are out of the competition but it does not mean we will give up the match easily,' coach Chan Ho-yin said last night. 'The spirit of South China is to fight until the last minute and we will go all out to win in front of our fans.
'The early exit in the regional cup tournament has taught us a good lesson but we will start all over from [tonight's] match so that we can become stronger.'
South China lost the domestic league title to rivals Kitchee and cannot qualify for the AFC Cup next year.
Chonburi coach Withaya Laohakul vowed to win to ensure the visitors finish the top of the group. 'Our target is to get the three points so that we can have the advantage of playing at home in the last-16 match,' he said.
The Caroliners will be missing midfielder Nicky Butt as the ex-Manchester United star picked up a second yellow card in their previous match against Persipura of Indonesia. Fellow midfield powerhouse Li Haiqiang is also suspended for the same reason, giving Bai He and Leung Chun-pong the chance to work in central midfield.
Hong Kong international Chan Siu-ki will return from suspension to add firepower up front, but ex-Chelsea striker Mateja Kezman is doubtful with a knee injury.
Chonburi will field former Kitchee centre-half Darko Rakocevic, the Serbian who helped Kitchee clinch the League Cup in 2007 when he scored both goals in the final against Happy Valley.