Kitchee's late blitz sends them to League Cup final
Three goals in extra time fired Kitchee into the League Cup final as they outclassed South China 4-1 in front of a crowd of 3,200 at Mong Kok Stadium yesterday.
Second-half substitute Fernando Recio powered home a low drive in the 99th minute to put Kitchee into the lead again after a 1-1 deadlock in the allotted 90 minutes.
Cup holders South China threw everything into attack looking for the equaliser, which in turn gave Kitchee more space in the counter-attack. Liang Zicheng then added to the tally, while Jorge Tarres sealed the victory with his second goal of the match in stoppage time.
Tarres, last season's top scorer, put Kitchee into the lead through a penalty in the opening stages of the second half. But the Caroliners were back on level terms when striker Giovane da Silva hit the target with a spectacular bicycle kick in the 60th minute, a gift from Kitchee captain Lo Kwan-yee who headed the ball to the Brazilian inside the box.
'We had to go for attack after going down 2-1 in extra time,' said South China flanker Lee Wai-lim. 'But we could not convert our chances and Kitcheee took full advantage with their fast counter break.'
Kitchee boss Ken Ng Kin said the scoring hardly reflected the standard between the two rivals.
Ng, whose side were beaten 4-2 by the Caroliners in the same stage of last year's League Cup, said: '[South China] had more possession today but could not find the net. Once we picked up the second goal in extra time, everything went well for us.'
Despite having played host to Tampines Rovers of Singapore in the AFC Cup last Tuesday, Kitchee players showed no shortage of stamina n the 120-minute match.
'We have been rotating some of our players to conserve their energy and it worked very well,' said Ng. 'Playmaker Lam Ka-wai has rarely played a 120-minute game, but today he handled it very well. It's a good opportunity for him as he needs tough matches like this to raise his form after missing most part of the first half season due to injury.
'Midfielder Huang Yang has been playing frequently and we may rest him in the next match as we are preparing for the league and the AFC Cup.'
Meanwhile, TSW Pegasus will take on Citizen in the other semi-final at Mong Kok Stadium today after a disappointing run in the league last week when the First Division leaders were held by bottom team Sapling.
'The result has hit us severely as we have been running very well in the league,' said Pegasus coach Chan Hiu-ming. 'But it has also sounded a warning to the players against complacency. We need to beat Citizen to get our confidence back.'