South China rumble Yangon United 5-3 to keep AFC Cup hopes alive
Caroliners score a crucial victory over Myanmar side for their first win in four matches, but they face an uphill task to reach play-offs
South China kept their hopes alive of reaching the AFC Cup knockout stage after overcoming visitors Yangon United 5-3 at Mong Kok Stadium last night.
It was only their first victory in group G after four games and the result was just good enough to temporarily lift them from the bottom of the table to third place through a better goal difference over Kelantan, of Malaysia.
But the Caroliners still face a daunting task ahead.
They have to travel to Vietnam next week to take on group leaders Vissai Ninh Binh, the team who have achieved a perfect winning record after thrashing Kelantan 4-0 in other group match last night.
The Vietnamese side, who stay clear at the top of the table with 12 points, have already qualified for the next round and hopefully their desire for victory will not be as strong as in their first group match when they beat South China 3-1 at Hong Kong Stadium in early February.
A relieved South China coach Yeung Ching-kwong paid tribute to his players, saying the boys had improved on their finishing from their previous away match when they were beaten 2-0 by Yangon United.
"We were more aggressive this time, attacking from the first minute and gained the advantage of two early goals," said Yeung.
"Also, our speedy counter attack troubled the opponents a lot and overall I am happy with the performance."
But he would not be carried away by the result because they still faced a tough road ahead.
"The victory has revitalised our hopes, but it's too early to talk about making it to the next round," he said.
"The next match against Ninh Binh will still be crucial like this game and we must win. There is no other option."
Knowing a defeat would send them out of the regional cup competition, the home side threw everything into attack in front of a 1,000-strong crowd and were rewarded with two goals in the first 15 minutes to set the tone.
They ended the first 45 minutes with a 3-2 lead and extended it to 5-2 after 60 minutes.
The visitors were apparently hampered by the poor conditions of the pitch and although they pulled one more back in the later stages, it did not change the end result.
Midfielder Luk Chi-ho, who was given a rare chance in midfield and scored the opening goal for South China, said their victory over Sun Pegasus last week had boosted the team's confidence.
"I was a bit surprised of getting the chance, as I haven't played for a while. But the coach and other staff gave me a lot of confidence before the game and the victory over Pegasus in our last match also helped," he said.
Yangon United coach Eric Williams said he did not want to use the poor pitch conditions as an excuse for their defeat, but admitted they were not used to playing on a slippery surface. The 30-minute delay for the arrival of the ambulance, which is required for player safety, also affected them.
"The game was difficult because water was all over the pitch," he said.
"But we did not want to make any excuses as both teams played on the same surface. They responded much better to the conditions than we did."