South China suffer humiliating loss in opening regional cup tie
Vietnamese side dominated in the first half, but came under pressure after the break
Local champions South China suffered a humiliating 3-1 defeat at the hands of Vietnamese side Vissai Ninh Binh in an AFC Cup group match on Wednesday night.
It was a big setback for the Caroliners, kicking off their campaign at Hong Kong Stadium before a small crowd of just 2,100.
In contrast, Kitchee scored an impressive 5-0 away win over Tampines Rovers in their group H match in Singapore.
In the Hong Kong clash, two goals in the first half of the group G match, and then another in the opening minutes of the second period gave the Vietnamese side a commanding lead.
Although South China worked hard to pull one back through a header from Chan Siu-ki - his first goal after returning from the China league this season, it was not enough to prevent a disastrous result in their regional cup tie.
Captain Chan Wai-ho said a lapse of concentration in their defence cost them dearly.
"Playing in the regional competition is much more demanding, allowing you little room for making the kind of mistakes we sometimes make on the domestic front," said the Hong Kong international.
"We had an improved second half and came close on a number of occasions, but the deficit was too big.
"But this is not the end of the world, even if we failed to play our best in the opening match. There is still a long way to go and if we can get points in the following two away games, we still have a chance."
Strikers Chan and Andrew Barisic both had clear-cut chances to close the gap, but neither could take advantage amid good defending from Vissai Ninh Binh.
The visiting coach said they were a little lucky to walk away with a comfortable win.
"Our players followed a game plan very well and played a good game," said Nguyen Van Sy. "I agree we were under great pressure in the second half, but in the end it's the result that matters.
The visitors were dangerous on the break in the first half and South China coach Yeung Ching-kwong admitted they gave them too much space for several counterattacks.
"The first period was not ideal," said Yeung. "We had to go for a win at home with a lot of overlapping, but our defenders were not quick enough to cover each other.
"Also, they have some quality expatriates that made our lives very difficult."
Meanwhile, Sun Pegasus beat Yokohama 3-1 in a RedMR First Division match at Tseung Kwan O Sports Ground.