It's brothers in arms for Lunar New Year victory
The work ethic of players uniting from Citizen and Ecuadorean team Cuenca to convincingly win the final of the annual showpiece is hailed
Strangers just last week, Citizen and Ecuadorean side Cuenca were brothers in arms as they united to win the Lunar New Year AET Cup with a 2-0 victory over Portugal's SC Olhanense at Hong Kong Stadium yesterday.
Despite just three training sessions together, the combined side created enough magic to first ward off the pre-tournament favourites, Russian Super League side FC Krylia Sovetov Samara, on the opening day of the annual showpiece on Friday, before gelling again with another fluid performance for a crowd of 13,432.
"The amazing thing was the union between the two sides in such a short time. The players, and there was some talent within Citizen, worked hard and listened to how I wanted them to play. That work ethic was the key to victory," said a delighted Ecuadorean coach Roberto Gomez.
Unlike on the first day, Citizen didn't have to wait until the end for super-sub Detinho to spark a remarkable victory. This time they had the game under control by half-time. First, a well-taken goal from Citizen forward Sham Kwok-keung came in the 15th minute. He received a pinpoint long ball from skipper Festus Baise which caught the defence napping. Sham controlled it well and despite the attentions of a defender, chipped the ball cleverly over Portuguese goalie Fredrik Sandqvist into an open net.
Citizen made it 2-0 just after the break after their Japanese import Yuto Nakamura was felled inside the box. The penalty was taken by their new Serbian attacking midfielder Marko Krasic but his low shot was blocked. The rebound fell into the path of Nakamura whose shot was again parried by the goalkeeper, only for it to balloon invitingly for Krasic to nod the ball in.
In the first game, it was Detinho and Krasic who scored goals in regulation time which earned them the draw and the ensuing penalty contest which they won. Yesterday it was again the turn of two of their own - Sham and Krasic - to find the net. But Citizen executive director Calvin Pui Ho-wang paid tribute to Cuenca for creating opportunities.
"What this tournament has done, apart from raising the profile of our club, is show us what we really lack as a team in the local competition and that is a good creative midfielder," said Pui, pointing to the midfield general and captain of Cuenca, Alejandro Frezzotti, as someone he would like to have.
"We have the strike force, but we need to strengthen the core of our team if we are to be more competitive and take on the likes of Kitchee and South China. If we had someone like the Cuenca captain, we could start dominating the midfield," Pui said.
That was laughed aside by Gomez. "We also like what we saw in Citizen. Their captain [Baise] and Marko are two players I like, and of course the Brazilian Detinho if he was younger."
But an exchange? No way.
Russia's Samara defeated FC Tokyo of Japan 1-0 in the third-place play-off.