South China win Hong Kong league title after Kitchee falter
Kitchee handed the RedMR First Division title to rivals South China after they were held to a 1-1 draw by Sun Pegasus at Yuen Long Stadium last night.
With only one match left for the season, the two-time champions now have no chance to make up the four-point gap between themselves and the Caroliners, whose result against Southern at Aberdeen Sports Ground today will have no bearing on the title now.
"We introduced more young players at the beginning of the season and it seemed to have worked," said South China convener Steven Lo Kit-sing last night.
"We have been leading the league all the way until March when we suffered two surprising defeats, allowing Kitchee to come back at us. But fortunately the players bounced back. We must avoid making the same mistakes next season."
Lo said the newly crowned champions, who thrashed Kitchee 4-1 last Sunday, won't be celebrating until they play their last league match against Sunray Cave Sun Hei at home.
Pegasus, meanwhile, remain in seventh place on 18 points and remain in relegation danger. The club's future will become clearer after today's match between two strugglers - Sun Hei and Wofoo Tai Po. Sun Hei, who are on 14 points, must win the away match to avoid making the big drop.
Kitchee got off to a good start last night when Yago Gonzalez converted a six-minute penalty, but his effort was cancelled out by Deng Jinghuang 10 minutes into the second half.
Meanwhile, the inaugural Hong Kong Premier League may comprise 10 teams, even though next term's 'transition season' will feature 12.
The proposed professional league is due to kick off in autumn next year. There will be 12 teams in the 2013/14 season with one team relegated and three teams being promoted from the Second Division at the end of this season.
Hong Kong Football Association CEO Mark Sutcliffe said the number of Premier League teams had not been finalised.
"All we can say is the 12 teams of the transitional season will be granted first refusal for the inaugural Premier League season, but it doesn't mean they can all be there automatically," said Sutcliffe.
"They still have to apply for a license and sign the participation agreement which will specify what their obligations are.
"We don't know how many of the teams will be eligible for the license at this stage, but in quite a lot of areas the clubs will have to improve significantly from where they are now if they want to achieve this."