Nine-man Citizen lifted the Canbo Senior Shield after defeating defending champions South China on penalties in a dramatic comeback at Hong Kong Stadium yesterday.
After conceding three goals in the first 36 minutes, Citizen's hopes seemed to have evaporated, but somehow they rallied to 3-3 and forced the final into extra time.
Neither side was able to score again and two South China players missed the target in the penalty shootout, to hand Citizen the trophy.
'We never gave up even when we were three goals down and that's why we came out as the eventual winners,' said delighted team-director Calvin Pui Ho-wang. 'This is a beautiful result, not only because we won the match in such a hard way, but also because the players showed great teamwork and fighting spirit. I hope our performance can attract more fans in future.'
Captain Festus Baise, who scored Citizen's first goal, was man of the match. He also led Citizen to the FA Cup two seasons ago, but said the Shield title was much more important. '[This] gives us the opportunity of representing Hong Kong in next year's Asian Football Confederation Cup and this made a big difference in the way we played,' he said. 'Citizen have never appeared in a regional cup tie before and the target gave us extra impetus.
'The three-goal deficit was a blow to us in the opening stages, but after scoring the first goal in first-half stoppage time, I knew we could come back from behind if we kept trying.'
Having spent six seasons with Citizen, the Nigerian now looks forward to representing Hong Kong after fulfilling the seven-year residency requirement.
Hong Kong international Chan Siu-ki missed a penalty midway through the second half, which would have given South China a comfortable 4-2 lead with a one-man advantage.
Paulo Carreiro, Citizen centre half, received a second booking, for handling the ball inside the box, and was sent off. Chan stepped up to take the penalty but his shot was well saved by Citizen goalkeeper Tse Tak-him. The other sending off was in extra time.
'Baise's goal before the half-time whistle was crucial as it lighted up their hopes again,' said Chan Ho-yin, South China acting head coach.
Citizen players received a bonus of HK$800,000 for winning.