Kitchee retained their BMA First Division title last night without even kicking a ball and have Sunray Cave Sun Hei to thank after their 2-1 win over TSW Pegasus.
It was a heartbreaking night for Kitchee's title rivals, who had not lost at home all season until last night's defeat at Yuen Long Stadium in their last game of the season. Kitchee still have one game left, against Biu Chun Rangers tomorrow, but are a point ahead and cannot be caught.
Their second league title in a row earns them a place in next year's AFC Cup along with Sun Hei, the Senior Shield winners.
Pegasus, who slipped up in the run-in, now have to settle for second place, and coach Chan Hiu-ming could not hide his disappointment, although he did not forget to congratulate Kitchee.
'We failed to maintain our form after taking the lead in the middle of the season,' said Chan. 'We were in the driver's seat but could not respond. It was a bit disappointing. We have made progress from last season, but unfortunately Kitchee have made even more and they've become the eventual winners.
'Pegasus are still a young side with only a four-year history in the domestic league. Given more time, the team will grow and become big.'
Kitchee boss Ken Ng Kin (pictured) said they had been preparing for tomorrow's game against Rangers and did not pay too much attention to last night's match. 'Our plan was to beat Rangers to win the title,' he said. 'But now we have to thank Sun Hei for finishing our job much earlier.'
He paid tribute to coach Josep Gombau's astute rotation of his squad, helping them maintain a consistent standard throughout the season despite competing in the AFC Cup as well as the domestic tournaments. Kitchee have won the League Cup, face Pegasus in the FA Cup final next Saturday, and are in the last 16 of the AFC Cup.
'The team has been strengthened with the arrival of some new players in January, and under Josep all our players can work as a unit and that's why we succeeded,' Ng said.
Roberto Affonso struck home from the penalty spot with only nine minutes gone to draw first blood for Sun Hei before Mamadou Barry added to the tally in the 25th minute.
Pegasus, knowing only a win would suffice, threw everything into attack, but the two-goal deficit always seemed too much.
Godfred Karikari did pull one back, in the 57th minute, and Manoel Santos and Leandro Silva tested Sun Hei's defence repeatedly, but the equaliser would not come.
For Sunray Cave Sun Hei captain Cristiano Cordeiro, it was a perfect end to his 14-year career in Hong Kong. The Brazilian, who first came to Hong Kong in 1998 to play for South China, will lead an All Stars side to play against a Sun Hei All Stars side in a testimonial match at Mong Kok Stadium on June 3.