Hot start to AFC Cup for Kitchee
Kitchee coach Josep Gombau warned his team not to get too carried away by their emphatic 3-1 victory over Tampines Rovers in the AFC Cup last night, saying there was still much work ahead.
The local champions announced their return to the regional competition with an encouraging win over the Singaporean side at Tseung Kwan O Sports Ground that put them on top of group F - and with a real chance of going far in the tournament.
Malaysia's Terengganu also got off to a winning start in the same group yesterday, defeating Vietnam's Song Lam Nghe Ah 1-0, but Kitchee are sitting pretty at the top on goal difference.
Kitchee last competed in the AFC Cup in 2008 and failed to make it past the first round, but they showed they mean business this time as they put their strongest group rivals to the sword to snatch three deserved points.
Gombau warned fans not to read too much into the team's performance, emphasising there were many tough matches ahead.
'We're very happy of course, but the AFC Cup only started today and we need to concentrate on all our games,' said the Spanish coach.
'We won today and we're happy. But tomorrow, we need to work hard again because we have another important game against [arch rivals] South China in the League Cup semi-finals on Saturday. Every single game is important,' he said.
Liang Zicheng was the hero of the night, scoring a brace for the local champions, while Jordi Tarres was also on target.
After Liang's third-minute opener, the visitors levelled through Mohamed Jamil Ali in the 20th minute with a fine header, but Kitchee stepped up a gear in the second half with Liang scrambling home his second in the 62nd minute and then Tarres beating the offside trap to find the net four minutes later. Kitchee could have earned a bigger margin of victory if they had not missed a penalty after Tarres blasted his spot kick over the bar in the 32nd minute.
'I don't know how far Kitchee can go,' said Gombau. 'I need to check all the teams. We will work very hard to at least reach the second round. It's a good start.'
Tampines Rovers coach Steven Tan Teng-chuan said Kitchee deserved the points, while his team just couldn't find the inspiration despite fielding 41-year-old captain Aleksandar Duric, considered the world 's most successful top-division goalscorer among still-active players with 336 goals.
'Kitchee's performance was good and their movement upfront was good, especially in the first half when we failed to keep up the pace. Hopefully, we'll get a win in Singapore in the return leg [on May 9],' he said.