It was mission accomplished for South China following their convincing 4-1 victory over rivals Kitchee in the RedMR First Division at Tseung Kwan O Sports Ground last night.
With only two rounds of the season left for both teams, the Caroliners now head their closest rivals by five points, only needing one point from their remaining two matches to grab the league title back from Kitchee, the champions over the past two seasons.
As the referee blew the final whistle in a heated match which saw Kitchee goalkeeper Wang Zhenpeng sent off in stoppage time for punching Man Pei-tak of South China, Kitchee boss Ken Ng Kin reckoned their chances had been blown away.
"It is unlikely South China will drop all six points in the remaining two matches although it is still possible in mathematical terms," said Kitchee boss Ken Ng Kin. "I would like to congratulate South China for a successful season. We have played them five times this season and have never beaten them.
"The league title is now likely going to them after we won it for the last two seasons. Soccer will certainly improve with this kind of competition among the clubs."
South China convenor Steven Lo Kit-sing, however, remained cautious, acknowledging their chances are very high as they will only face two lowly sides - Southern and Sunray Cave Sun Hei - to complete the job.
"We played one of our best matches of the season tonight as the players followed the instruction of the coaching staff to the fullest," he said. "Now we are left with the final hurdle to clear.
"Against Southern earlier in the season, we were held to a goalless draw and we have to pay full attention this time as we have to play them away."
South China players celebrated as if they had won the championship, although coach Liu Chun-fai shared his boss's cautious view. "Our job is not over. We have two more matches and need a point," he said.
Brazilian midfielder Manoel Santos gave South China the advantage from the penalty spot. Second-half substitute Alessandro Celin powered home a low drive in the 73rd minute to add to the tally before Lee Hong-lim scored a third for South China. Huang Yang scored a late consolation for Kitchee before Martins de Souza's penalty kick, awarded after the Kitchee goalkeeper was red-carded, made it 4-1.