New boys give South China glory in Canbo Senior Shield
Sasa Kajkut and Andrew Barisic make dream debuts as they help the Caroliners win the first trophy of the season in final against Pegasus
New boys Sasa Kajkut and Andrew Barisic had dream debuts for South China, both scoring to help their new club come from behind to beat Sun Pegasus 2-1 in the Canbo Senior Shield soccer final at Hong Kong Stadium on Sunday.
Bosnian Kajkut and Australian Barisic both scored in the second half to help the Caroliners win the first trophy of the season.
And after weeks of local soccer headlines dominated by match-fixing allegations, it appeared fans' appetite for the game was undimmed: the crowd of 6,800 was the biggest so far this season.
Jaimes McKee put Pegasus ahead just after 12 minutes with a spectacular volley following a neat pass from Admir Rascic, but two goals in five minutes after the break were enough for South China.
Although Kajkut's day was marred when he was sent off after picking up a second yellow card in the 81st minute, he said it was still a dream start to his career in Asia.
"It doesn't matter if I've got sent off as long as we won the final," said the 29-year-old forward, believed to be the highest paid foreign player in Hong Kong with a monthly salary of over HK$200,000.
"I scored a goal and we are the champions. It is a very good way to start.
"I can still play better because I have stopped for more than a month and have been with the team for only a week. South China are a very aggressive side and I want to help them deliver in the Asian Champions League and that's also why I am here."
Kajkut levelled midway through the second half after connecting with a neat cross from Vincent Weiji while Barisic sealed the victory four minutes later with a great effort when he lobbed the goalkeeper from 20 metres out.
The Bosnian should have won the man of the match, but was ineligible because of his red card and Barisic took the honour, earning a cheque for HK$5,000 on top of the HK$15,000 bonus offered by the team management for each player.
Team convenor Steven Lo Kit-sing said his new signings had made the difference: "They are both quality players and contributed a lot to the victory - but other members also did a good job to come from behind.
"Both sides tried very hard throughout the match and we needed a quality match like this to pull the fans back to the stadium amid the recent negative reports on Hong Kong soccer."
Lo said they were still considering new players. Hong Kong international Andy Nagelein is close to joining. There are also two more foreigners on the list.
"We will discuss with the coaching team before making a decision on the players next week because we have to submit the ACL players list before January 22," said Lo.
Pegasus coach Chan Chi-hong rued an injury to defender Paulo Nunes, which he felt cost them the match: "When we conceded the first goal, we were down to 10 men because Nunes was lying on the ground due to an injury - and before we were able to make the substitution, we lost the second."