South China suffer major blow in title chase after going down to Yokohama
Struggling Yokohama hand Caroliners 1-0 defeat to set up winner-takes-all clash with Kitchee
Title chasers South China slipped up again with their second Red MR First Division defeat in a row, a 1-0 loss to strugglers Yokohama FC (HK) at Siu Sai Wan Sports Ground yesterday.
Japanese striker Tsuyoshi Yoshitake scored the only goal in the 13th minute, after a quick counter-attack left goalkeeper Yapp Hung-fai exposed.
"We had a poor game, very poor," said Hong Kong international Lee Hong-lim after the match. "We lacked the know-how to break their tight defence after conceding the early goal.
"We didn't have any form at all. Maybe we lost the goal too early and our whole gameplan was disrupted."
But the winger remained defiant about South China's chances of reclaiming the league trophy from rivals Kitchee, the two-time defending champions. "We are still leading them by two points in the standings and the pressure will be on them when we meet in the league next Sunday [April 14]," he said. "They must beat us to regain the lead and we are quite confident of stopping them from doing so."
South China lost to Tuen Mun 2-1 in their last match, as coach Liu Chun-fai said the team were being affected by low confidence.
They missed the chance for an equaliser in the closing stages of the first half, earning a dubious penalty through Manoel Santos after the Brazilian went down in the box following minimal contact by Chan Siu-kwan. His spot kick was saved by Yokohama goalkeeper Tsang Man-fai.
Midfielder Carlos Bertoldi spurned two chances in the second half, first heading against the cross bar and then seeing a close-range effort cleared on the line by defender Law Chun-pong.
With 18 points and three matches left, Yokohama are almost safe from relegation and coach Lee Chi-kin gave full credit to his charges. "In my heart, every minute was passing slowly after the first 13 minutes," said Lee. "They had to throw everything into attack for the equaliser, but our players never gave in and were able to hold on till the end. It was a marvellous job by the players."
Yokohama are now sixth, leaving bottom three Sunray Cave Sun Hei (13 points) Wofoo Tai Po (15) and Citizen (15) most in danger of finishing last and going down.