KITCHEE PUT ICING ON CAKE WITH STUNNING SEVENS WIN
League champions Kitchee capped a 'perfect season' last night when they stunned Scottish giants Celtic 1-0 to win the HKFC Citibank International Soccer Sevens at Hong Kong Football Club.
Having sealed their first league title since 1964 a little over a week ago, Kitchee became the first local team to win the prestigious event since Instant Dict in 2000.
'This is the icing on the cake,' said coach Josep Gombau as his players celebrated behind him. 'We won the Hong Kong league title and now the Hong Kong Sevens. It's a season the fans will remember forever.
'We are very happy. We enjoyed the tournament and played very well.'
Spanish striker Roberto Losada was the hero in the final, striking from close range in the second half to put Kitchee in control.
Celtic's young team, who won a league and cup double at under-19 level in Scotland this season, were fortunate to reach the final. They beat Aston Villa on penalties after a 0-0 draw and Ajax 1-0 with an extra-time golden goal, having been second best in both games, and couldn't break down the well-organised seasoned professionals from Kitchee.
'We said before the tournament that if we won this would be the perfect season,' said Losada, 34. 'We won the league, now it's the first time Kitchee have won the Sevens and it's fantastic. Now we can go on our holidays - all the players, the staff, the fans - very happy!
'We were confident going into the event. This season we played 100 per cent and we'll try to bring that back into the next season and do even better.'
Kitchee beat Celtic's rivals, Rangers, 2-0 in their cup quarter-final through an Ubay Luzardo penalty and a drive from Lam Ka-wai, but few in the crowd expected them to get past Liverpool in the semi-finals.
The English side had looked the most impressive team at the tournament, but Kitchee's experience and perhaps their greater familiarity with the sevens format told and they won 2-1 in extra time.
Lo Kwan-yee gave his team the lead before Jose Diaz scored the golden-goal winner after Nathan Eccleston had equalised.
Gombau left the celebrating to his players, heading straight to the airport to go to his native Spain on business, but he will be back for the side's friendly against Villarreal on May 26 and urged fans to reward his team by coming out in force.
It was a double success for local teams as Top Class FC - comprising former players from the Hong Kong First Division - beat ex-Premier League players Citibank All-Stars in the Masters final.
The visitors, featuring former Newcastle players John Beresford, Robert Lee and Steve Howey and led by ex-England international Des Walker, appeared to have it wrapped up after Howey and ex-Middlesbrough forward Craig Hignett gave them a two-goal lead.
But Top Class fought back to lead 3-2 with seconds to go before conceding an equaliser. Former Hong Kong international Yeung Hei-chi sealed his hat-trick, and victory, with the golden goal winner.
'I thought time was up and we were winners but suddenly it was like going from heaven to hell,' said former Instant Dict and Sun Hei player Yeung. 'But we calmed down and thought 'four against four, we're younger and fitter and can win this'.
'I'm delighted, I haven't won many titles and this is an important trophy for me.'
Kitchee's next tilt at silverware comes in late July, when they face Premier League teams Aston Villa, Chelsea and Blackburn Rovers in the Barclays Asia Trophy. Could another cup be heading to the trophy cabinet?
'That's going to be a lot harder,' smiled Gombau, 'but we'll still do our best to win it.'
- The number of years since a local team won the Soccer Sevens
- Now-defunct Instant Dict beat Chelsea in 2000