Jordan stop looks like end of line for Kitchee
AFC Cup semi-finals seem out of reach for HK side after 2-1 home defeat to Al Faisaly, but coach insists they can still win in the Middle East
Next stop Jordan. If only it were as simple as travelling a couple of stops down the MTR line from Mong Kok for Kitchee in their 2013 AFC Cup journey.
Instead they face a gruelling trip to Amman for next Tuesday's quarter-final second leg after losing 2-1 to 10-man Al Faisaly - and with the added baggage of having not only to win, but to try to claw back two away goals.
"We have a formidable task in front of us but despite this result, we will be going to Jordan with the aim of winning," said Kitchee head coach Alex Gomez. "Scoring an away goal is hard, now we have to score two, but this is football and anything can happen. But it is going to be tough."
Kitchee's bid to reach the AFC Cup semis is even more complicated as they face South China in a First Division game on Saturday. Soon after that, they will jump on board an aeroplane for the flight to the Middle East.
Despite being reduced to 10 men midway through the second half - defender Mohammad Khamees was shown red for remonstrating with the referee after a handball - the visitors had more than enough class to ward off an ineffectual Kitchee attack.
"I couldn't take the risk of only pressing forward in attack. We were trailing 2-1 at that stage and if we had conceded another goal on the break, that would have made our task in the return leg even harder," said Gomez.
Striker Jordi Tarres had entered the match as the leading goalscorer in the competition having netted 11 from seven games but he failed to find the net when it mattered most.
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Alex Akande, starting for the first time for Kitchee, gave them some hope with a fortuitous goal early in the second half which drew both sides level. But Al Faisaly soon went ahead again and prevented another equaliser.
"It was a tough match and we expect Kitchee to come back strongly at us in the return leg. We will be treating that as a final," said Al Faisaly coach Ali Kumekh.
"We have the upper hand now but anything can happen in football. We won't be sitting back and defending our lead. We played well today. I still think we should have scored more goals, but I'm more than happy with the result," Kumekh added.
Brazilian striker Tulio Souza opened the scoring for the Jordanians, providing the finishing touches to a quick counter-attack in the 20th minute when he was played in by Ra'ed Fraeh after Kitchee's Gao Wen had been dispossessed.
The visitors could have easily added another couple of goals with Fraeh coming close minutes later with a point blank shot which Wang Zhenpeng somehow managed to save.
"We gave away too much of possession. The players were nervous playing in front of their home fans and hopefully they will be able to put on a better show away," Gomez said.
Akande equalised immediately after play began in the second half when his shot took a lucky deflection. But the dangerous Fraeh knocked in a second in the 58th minute and though the red card for Khamees gave Kitchee renewed hope, they lacked the composure on the ball to make their advantage count.
"We made a few mistakes today but hopefully we will be able to bounce back," said Kitchee midfielder Lam Ka-wai.