Late thriller decides South China clash with Kitchee
South China leave it until the 97th minute before beating champions and arch-rivals Kitchee 1-0 in the biggest game of the season thus far
A goal in stoppage time by Martins de Souza gave South China a thrilling 1-0 victory against arch-rivals Kitchee in a top-of-the-table clash at Hong Kong Stadium yesterday.
The Brazilian striker celebrated his 97th-minute goal by taking off his jersey in front of the home fans, an act that earned him a second yellow card and a sending-off, but that hardly mattered as South China drew first blood against Kitchee in the teams' first meeting of the season.
Jack Sealy's timely cross from the right flew over the keeper's head and was well met by De Souza, who knocked the ball into an empty net.
"We were under huge pressure to get this win and that explains why De Souza lost his head and took off his jersey," said South China coach Liu Chun-fai. "Luckily, there was only a minute left to play, otherwise De Souza would have risked going from hero to zero."
Liu was pleased his players otherwise kept their focus in a tense game in which the referee handed out 10 yellow cards (six to South China and four to Kitchee). "We were fighting for the victory until the end and our efforts paid off," Liu said. "We were in control in the final stages whereas Kitchee seemed to be running out of steam."
Kitchee goalkeeper Wang Zhenpeng was injured collecting a high ball midway through the second half, interrupting the match for five minutes as the visitors from Tseung Kwan O made three substitutions.
When the match resumed, one of the substitutes, Jonathan Carril, saw his shot crash into the crossbar. "It would have changed the match if Carril had enjoyed a bit more luck. South China took their chance, we didn't take ours," Kitchee boss Ken Ng Kin lamented. "A draw would have been a fairer result.
"The players are really disappointed losing to such a late goal but we have to accept what has happened. There is still a long way to go in the league season and we can make up for this defeat by beating them in the return fixture at our home ground."
Ng said Kitchee had plans to bring in another foreign player to strengthen the squad and expected to complete the deal next week.
South China leapfrogged their rivals in the standings and now lead the way with 10 points, one ahead of Kitchee.
Liu said the victory would boost morale at South China but warned his players to keep their feet on the ground. "It is a massive victory, but it is too early to say who will be the eventual champions," he said.
Elsewhere, newly promoted Southern recorded their first point in the top flight after a strong comeback in the second half to force a 2-2 draw against visitors Wofoo Tai Po at Aberdeen Sports Ground.
Goals from Alexander Akande and Christian Annan gave Tai Po a comfortable 2-0 lead in the first half, but the home team levelled the score through Landon Ling and Ruben Lopez in the second period.
Substitute Chan Cheuk-kwong had an impressive second half for Southern as his powerful throw-ins repeatedly tested the Tai Po defence. One of those throw-ins led to Ruben's equaliser with four minutes to go.