Clinical Kitchee eye 'hat trick' after beating Sourhern 2-0 in play-offs
Kitchee moved a step closer to a "hat-trick" with a 2-0 win over Southern in the end-of-season play-offs at Mong Kok Stadium yesterday.
Having clinched the FA Cup and reached the quarter-finals of the AFC Cup, they are now closing in on their third and final mission of the season - winning a place in the 2014 AFC Cup.
Tuen Mun, who beat Wofoo Tai Po 2-1 in the other play-off on Saturday, remain Kitchee's only obstacle and the two sides meet on Sunday to decide who joins First Division champions South China in next year's AFC Cup.
Kitchee players vowed to complete the hat-trick as a gift to outgoing coach Josep Gombau, who will join A-League side Adelaide United in July.
Although watched by possible successor Alex Gomez, Kitchee looked uncomfortable in the hot and humid conditions yesterday.
"It was very demanding playing under these conditions, especially as we had just returned from the AFC Cup round of 16 in midweek," captain Chu Siu-kei said. "Fortunately, we scored an early goal and could control the pace well."
The 33-year-old midfielder had considered retiring, but with Kitchee now in the AFC Cup last eight, he is likely to stay for another season.
"I haven't made up my mind yet, but the AFC Cup opportunity will be a strong motivation to keep me in the sport despite my age," said the Hong Kong international.
Spaniard Gomez, who was a youth team coach with La Liga side Barcelona for five years, also said the heat might have affected the players.
"The weather has made it difficult for the players, but I am quite impressed with their performance," said Gomez, who will make a decision today whether or not he will take up the Kitchee job.
Yago Gonzalez opened the scoring for Kitchee in the seventh minute, slotting home a Lo Kwan-yee cross from the right. Matthew Lam settled matters with nine minutes remaining with a free kick, scoring his first goal since joining Kitchee in February.
Meanwhile, BC Rangers striker Lam Hok-hei left yesterday for Indonesian Super League side Persija Jakarta on a four-month contract. Persija are 15th in the 18-team league.