Caroliners face a season without any silverware
South China crashed out of the FA Cup at Hong Kong Stadium yesterday to confirm this season as their worst in years.
A frustrating 3-2 defeat by Kitchee in the quarter-finals means they are set to finish the season without any silverware for the first time since convenor Steven Lo Kit-sing took charge of the club in 2006.
Third in the league, they still have slender hopes of winning the championship, but if leaders Kitchee beat Tuen Mun on Thursday night, those hopes evaporate.
'Of course it is a very disappointing season to win nothing,' Lo, whose side won the FA Cup and Senior Shield last season, said. 'But you cannot always be the champions. Liverpool and Arsenal have won nothing for many seasons and they are still rated as very good sides.
'As long as we play good soccer, like we did today, there is nothing more you can ask for.'
Lo said luck was not on their side in a match they totally controlled against a half-strength Kitchee, who had rested eight regulars following their midweek match against Tampines Rovers of Singapore in the AFC Cup.
'We are happy to see our rotation of players work very well, especially today when we were under huge pressure from the opponents,' Kitchee president Ken Ng Kin said. 'We were pinned in defence for most of the time and thanks to the performance of some of the players, such as second-choice goalkeeper Guo Jianqiao and goalscorers Roberto Losada and Yago Gonzalez, we were able to hang in there till the end.'
Despite reaching the FA Cup semi-finals, Kitchee's primary focus remains the league championship and the AFC Cup.
'Clinching the league title will guarantee our appearance in the 2013 AFC Cup and a second championship in a row,' Ng said. 'And if we can take one point in our last AFC Cup group match [against Terengganu of Malaysia], we can finish top of the group and secure home-ground advantage in the round of 16. Statistics have shown the home team have more than a 50 per cent winning chance in the AFC Cup.'
Chan Man-fai's corner opened the scoring for Kitchee after the South China keeper punched the ball into his own net, but high-flying Giovane da Silva, who hit a hat trick in their last match, levelled for South China in the 42nd minute.
Gonzalez and Losada scored either side of half-time to extend Kitchee's advantage to 3-1 before a late consolation from Joel Bertoti for South China.
Kitchee's opponents in the semi-finals will be Biu Chun Rangers, who beat Sunray Cave Sun Hei 2-0.