South China face must-win AFC Cup clash with Yangon United
Anything less than victory will see Caroliners exit the tournament
South China face a humiliating early exist if they fail to beat Yangon United of Myanmar in a crucial AFC Cup group G tie at Mong Kok Stadium tonight.
The Hong Kong champions have lost all three of their group matches so far and will relinquish hopes of reaching the knock-out stages if they record anything less than a victory against the visitors.
"We are facing a no-way back situation," said coach Yeung Ching-kwong yesterday. "We have to win this match, or we are out. It is as simple as that.
"There is clearly pressure on the players and the coaching staff but we must turn the pressure into motivation and hopefully with the home advantage, we can achieve something."
The domestic heavyweights were beaten 2-0 in Yangon two weeks ago, but Yeung remained hopeful of reversing the score.
"We played under extreme heat conditions in Yangon which made us exhausted, but despite the defeat, the players did create a lot of chances. We are now back on home soil and the players are confident they can put up a good fight," he said.
Yeung's view was shared by captain Chan Wai-ho, who is likely to team up with Sean Tse Ka-keung in central defence after his regular partner Lee Chi-ho was sent off in the last match.
"We deserved more than a 2-0 loss in Yangon, we were just hampered by poor finishing," said Chan. "But we showed marked improvements when we overcame Sun Pegasus 3-2 in the FA Cup last week. Our form is back and our confidence is there."
The home side were given extra time to prepare after their league game against BC Rangers on Saturday was called off owing to poor pitch conditions.
Neither South China nor the visitors were allowed to train on the Mong Kok pitch ahead of the match in order to preserve the turf following the heavy rains.
Yangon head coach Eric Williams recalled bitterly his side's last visit to Hong Kong two years ago when they were beaten 2-1 by Citizen in the same tournament following a last-minute goal by Festus Baise, which the Australian maintains was offside.
"We are expecting a tough match as South China are a strong side with a long tradition in Hong Kong soccer," he said.
In group H, meanwhile, highflying Kitchee have qualified for the next round with two matches left after beating Nay Pyi Taw 2-1 in Myanmar last night.
Spanish striker Juan Belencoso settled the match with 10 minutes left when he slotted home from Jorge Tarres' cross.
With 10 points from four games, they are now vying to finish top in the group, meaning they would have home advantage in the last 16. This would be guaranteed if they can beat visitors Tampines Rovers of Singapore next week. Kitchee thrashed the same opponents 5-0 when they met in Singapore in the opening match.