Play-off win perfect gift for departing Gombau
It was mission completed for outgoing coach Josep Gombau as Kitchee won the inaugural season play-off match against Tuen Mun at Mong Kok Stadium yesterday.
The 3-0 victory assured the domestic heavyweights a place in the 2014 AFC Cup, the regional tournament in which they made it to the quarter-finals this year by upsetting Kelantan of Malaysia 2-0 in the round of 16 earlier this month.
Coupled with their success in defending the FA Cup, Kitchee have had a successful season despite losing the league title to rivals South China. Kitchee T held the league title for the previous two seasons.
"Thanks to the players, we have achieved a good season," said a delighted Gombau, who will join Australian League side Adelaide United in July. "You cannot always win the league championship, but our success in the FA Cup, the season play-off and the AFC Cup is equally important."
The 36-year-old , formerly the technical director of FCB Escola in Dubai, has introduced a Barcelona-like playing style to Kitchee which earned the club five titles under his reign. Gombau will be succeeded by another Spaniard, Alex Gomez, who has been a youth team coach with Barcelona for five years.
Striker Jorge Tarres, who drew first blood for Kitchee yesterday, thanked Gombau for the opportunities he had given in Hong Kong.
"He brought me to Hong Kong and gave me the opportunities," said the prolific goalscorer, who won the MVP of the month after netting his 11th goal in the AFC Cup against Kelantan.
"We had a good season and are pleased to give our coach this parting gift.
"The new coach has a lot of experience with the Barcelona set-up and both of them come from the same system.
"I don't think the team philosophy will change too much," he said.
Tarres' opening goal early in the second half energised Kitchee as they struggled to deliver in the heat and humidity. Kitchee were safe after Footballer of the Year, Huang Yang netted the second in the 67th minute before second-half substitute Chan Man-fai sealed victory with 10 minutes remaining.