Kitchee remain unbeaten in AFC Cup
Hong Kong club are now just one win away from reaching the knockout stage after brushing aside Myanmar side
Unbeaten Kitchee moved a step closer to the AFC Cup knockout stage after beating visitors Nay Pyi Taw of Myanmar 2-0 at Mong Kok Stadium on Wednesday night.
With Tampines Rovers of Singapore overcoming Indian side Pune 3-1 in another group H match, Kitchee, who have seven points after their latest victory, just need to beat the Myanmese side in the return match on April 1 to qualify for the round of 16.
"We won't get carried away by the result although we should have a great chance now with three matches left," said Kitchee coach Chu Chi-kwong. "We will approach the away match with caution, but having beaten them tonight should give us sufficient confidence.
"Indeed, I don't think the result is the most important thing as I want to see my charges improve with every match so they can become competitive in the region."
Striker Jorge Tarres, who missed a penalty in the early stages of the match, was not too disappointed after the encounter. "I did not score but my performance was not too bad. Perhaps because I had not trained for five days, that might have something to do with it," said the Spaniard, who only resumed training on Monday after recovering from measles that forced him to miss last week's match against Pune.
The striker showed no sign that he was lacking fitness as he sent the ball into the net as early as the third minute but that was ruled offside. However, Kitchee did not have to wait too long before getting the opening goal in front of a crowd of 1,800.
Tarres' through ball in the middle picked out another Spaniard, Juan Belencoso, who made no mistake with only the goalkeeper to beat after just eight minutes.
Kitchee should have extended the lead three minutes later, but Tarres, who scored 12 goals in the regional cup competition last season and a brace in their opening game against Tampines Rovers, missed from the penalty spot after Myanmar defender Obadin Aikhena was found to have handled the ball inside the box.
The slender lead was apparently not good enough for the coach and Belencoso, who earned high praise for his attitude on the pitch, got his second goal in the opening minutes after the break. This time he had to thank skipper Lam Ka-wai, who made an accurate cross for him to head home from close range.
The home side were in total control for the rest of the match, but missed chances as both Tarres and Belencoso saw their efforts denied by the goalpost.
Nay Pyi Taw coach Myo Hlaing Win admitted Kitchee were the favourites in the group.
"Kitchee are the best in the group as they are very professional and play with few mistakes," he said. "We played our best tonight but the slippery pitch did cause us problems.
"We will host Kitchee in the next match and with a better understanding of the opponents, we will have more confidence."
Meanwhile, Beijing Guoan moved to the top of the standings in group F of the AFC Champions League with a 2-1 win over Australia's Central Coast Mariners at Workers' Stadium.
Shao Jiayi gave Beijing the lead late in the first half with a fine strike before Peter Utaka doubled his side's advantage in the 61st minute from a tight angle after beating goalkeeper Liam Reddy.
Nick Fitzgerald scored from the penalty spot for Central Coast with four minutes remaining, but it was not enough to deny Beijing all three points. They lead the group by one point from J.League champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima and last year's runners-up FC Seoul.
Additional reporting by Michael Church