A 10-man Kitchee got off to a flying start in the AFC Cup with a 3-0 win over visitors Churchill Brothers of India at Mong Kok Stadium last night.
Coach Josep Gombau paid tribute to the hard work of his charges as they secured victory despite the player deficit.
"It is important to start with a win," said the Spaniard. "Although there is still a long way to go in the tournament, we get a good start to boost our future.
"It's not easy because we played two matches in three days, but we are happy to see the players hold on till the end despite playing with only 10 men in most of the second half."
Kitchee's rotation plan saw just half of their regulars in the starting line-up of their Sunday league match in which they defeated Tuen Mun 2-0.
All players then had a chance to prove themselves last night's important regional cup tie. They did not disappoint the 1,800-strong home crowd, taking a comfortable 2-0 led in the group E match after the first 45 minutes.
But they should also thank the opposition for two easy chances as poor defence cost the visitors dearly. First, Huang Yang's right cross did not encounter any Churchill Brothers defender, leaving Chu Siu-kei to coolly slot home from the far post.
The second goal was routine. A nice touch between Cheng Siu-wai and Pablo Gonzalez set teammate Jorge Tarres free on the right and the Spanish striker made no mistake with an easy drive.
But the play switched gears when Kitchee midfielder Huang was shown the exit as he collected a second booking early in the second period.
Inspired by their one-man advantage, the visitors clawed their way back and should have closed the gap when Bineesh Balan fired from 30 metres out, but it his the cross-bar.
Just as Churchill Brothers failed their attempt, Kitchee dashed their hopes of a comeback with Tarres finding his second of the night through a header following Gao Wen's free-kick.
"We played quite good, but silly mistakes and lack of concentration cost us," said the visitors' coach Mariano Dias. "We will try to organise ourselves when we play Kitchee at home."