South China seek convincing start in regional cup tie
South China need to set aside their disappointing domestic run as they kick off their AFC Cup campaign against Vissai Ninh Binh of Vietnam at Hong Kong Stadium on Wednesday night.
After being held to a 2-2 draw by Sun Pegasus in the league at the weekend, the Hong Kong champions need a convincing start in the regional cup tie to lift their morale.
"It was a blow conceding a last-minute equaliser to Pegasus, but the boys are professionals and should know how to deal with a situation like this," said coach Yeung Ching-kwong. "There has been no shortage of determination in training and the players are all keen to make up for the losses. I am pretty sure they will put on a good show."
Despite taking up the head coach role only last week, Yeung has plenty of experience in handling overseas teams.
"I was the assistant coach with Pegasus when they featured in the same regional cup tie and was among the backroom staff for the Hong Kong team in multi-sport events such the Asian Games and East Asian Games," said Yeung.
"The pace of matches against overseas teams is much faster and we must raise our game."
Yeung said they had already studied video footage of the visitors and view Vissai Ninh Binh as "a typical Vietnamese club". "Their local players are fast with good individual skills, while their strike force is fronted by two foreign players who are both strong and powerful," said Yeung. "We have already set in place specific tactics to tackle them."
The Caroliners have dropped two expatriates for the competition after failing to advance in the Asian Champions League (ACL) qualifying play-offs. While they have kept faith with strikers Andrew Barisic and Sasa Kajkut, midfielder Carlos Bertoldi and centre half Ko Kyung-joon have been replaced by Sean Tse Ka-keung and Joao Pereira. "Pereira can perform a more attacking role in midfield, while Sean is comfortable as a midfielder or stopper, giving us more options in defence," said Yeung.
Meanwhile, Kitchee kick off their campaign in group H against home side Tampines Rovers of Singapore. The Southeast Asia team were beaten by visitors South China 2-1 in the ACL qualifying play-offs earlier this month.