An uninspired Kitchee struggled to a 3-1 victory over Wofoo Tai Po yesterday as the champions maintained their slender lead in the RedMR First Division.
Still smarting from their 4-0 defeat by Shanghai Tellace in the interclub championship in midweek, Kitchee were lucky to walk away with the win at Tai Po Sports Ground, with a late goal by Jorge Tarres in stoppage-time helping to settle the matter.
Elsewhere, South China made no mistake with a 3-1 victory over BC Rangers at Mong Kok Stadium to stay second in the standings with 17 points, two behind Kitchee, but with one game in hand.
"We had a tough match and some of the players found it difficult to recover from the midweek match," said Kitchee fullback Lo Kwan-yee. "Tai Po were always dangerous on the break especially in the second half. They created many chances but fortunately they did not convert them. The victory did not come easily."
Former Spanish national youth team member Pablo Counago gave Kitchee the lead, scoring from the penalty spot in the fifth minute, and added to his tally from a header just before the break.
The home side, who are still struggling in the bottom half of the table, threw everything into attack after the break. Their hard work paid off when Li Shu-yeung closed the gap to 2-1 with a low drive midway through the second half.
But as they looked for the equaliser, their attempts from the two fast forwards, Christian Annan and Alexander Akande, were either denied by the woodwork or failed to find the target from close range. Tarres extended the score to seal the victory in the dying minutes.
"We could only blame ourselves for missing so many chances in the second half," said Tai Po coach Cheung Po-chun.