Title-hungry Kitchee return to the top after bouncing back to beat Sun Hei
Kitchee kicked off the Year of the Dragon in convincing fashion when they came from behind to beat fellow title challengers Sunray Cave Sun Hei 2-1 in the BMA First Division at Mong Kok Stadium yesterday.
The victory sent the defending champions back to the top of the standings on 23 points, two ahead of TSW Pegasus, while Sun Hei remain fifth place on 17 points.
'This is a good start and I hope we can keep the momentum going because there's still a long way to go,' said Kitchee president Ken Ng Kin.
'Our away match to Pegasus in two weeks will be crucial to our title defence. But the team are improving with the arrival of a couple of new players. I am confident that once they blend in with the rest of the squad, our team will get even stronger.
'The training camp in Thailand before the Lunar New Year went very well for us. We played two hard matches against their top sides and that raised not only our fitness level, but also provided an opportunity for the players to improve their understanding with each other. '
Newly joined Spanish striker Yago Gonzalez scored the winning goal just before half-time after a neat exchange between Jorge Tarres and Lam Ka-wai on the right. Tarres, the league's top scorer last season, equalised for Kitchee in the 27th minute, collecting a timely pass from Gonzalez on the right and slotting home from near the post.
Mamadou Barry had given Sun Hei the lead five minutes earlier when he beat goalkeeper Wang Zhenpeng in front of a 2,000-strong crowd with a powerful right footer from 18 metres out.
Sun Hei sent on new striker Maximiliano Ayala to replace injured Luk Chi-ho before half-time and the Argentine came close to scoring on his debut, hitting the post after successfully penetrating through the middle.
Former Fulham defender Zesh Rehman made his debut for Kitchee and the centre half was happy with his performance. 'It was a difficult match for us and we had to fight for every ball till the end,' said the 28-year-old. 'I came off from a long season in Thailand before joining Kitchee and I can do better once I have settled in.'
Sun Hei coach Ricardo Rambo said they were hit by the absence of a number of key players at the back through injury or suspension and their next two matches - both against South China - would be crucial.
'We will play the Caroliners in the league next week and meet them again in the Senior Shield final on February 18. These are two important matches although our focus will be in the cup final as the reward for that will be a berth in next season's AFC Cup,' he said.