Kitchee close in on third FA Cup final in a row after beating South China on penalties
Rivals finish 0-0 after 120 minutes; Kitchee now face BC Rangers in semi-finals
Kitchee moved a major step closer to their second trophy of the season after dumping rivals South China out of the FA Cup yesterday.
Despite many close chances, neither side were able to break the deadlock in the quarter-final tie in normal and extra time; Kitchee, who have sewn up the league title already this term, triumphed on penalties 3-1.
They now meet BC Rangers for a place in their third consecutive FA Cup final – they won both the previous two.
Rangers beat I-Sky Yuen Long 5-4 on penalties after they also both failed to score after 120 minutes.
“We did expect the penalty situation because the two teams are very close, and practised spot-kicks during training,” said Kitchee acting head coach Chu Chi-kwong.
“Our players were therefore very confident, especially the goalkeeper who had studied hard South China players’ penalty preferences before the match. In the end, our effort paid off.
“It was a tense match because both sides wanted to open the scoring first. South China pressed us hard in the first half and created more chances, especially when Fernando Recio was taken off injured. But the players showed great composure, hanging in there and gradually getting back after the break.”
Kitchee started the game without their prolific striker Juan Belencoso, out with a back injury. Coupled with Recio’s injury midway through the first half, the coach has worries for their AFC Cup round of 16 tie.
“Recio was sent to hospital and we don’t know the situation yet. He showed great pain in his arm and hopefully it is just a joint dislocation, while Belencoso is under intensive treatment,” said Chu.
In the presence of their convenor Steven Lo Kit-sing, who turned up to watch his side for the first time since he was found guilty of money laundering and corruption by a Macau Court last month, South China had more control in the first half.
Striker Chan Siu-ki, who replaced injured Sasa Kajkut in the 31st minute, came close to scoring when he knocked a Andre Barisic cross against the post while Dhiego Martins also headed wide of target in front of a 3,100-strong crowd.
Kitchee striker Jorge Tarres hit the post in the closing stages of the second half while Alexander Akande twice saved Kitchee in extra time, clearing a Barisic header off the line then doing the same from a close-range shot from Lee Chi-ho.
In the penalty shoot-out, South China missed three out of four. Vincent Weijl blasted high over the bar while Lee Hong-lim and Carlos Bertoldi both had shots saved by Kitchee goalkeeper Guo Jiangqiao. Only Barisic found the target.
Kitchee only had Jang Kyung-jin miss; Tarres, Diego Cascon and Christian Annan all scored.
South China coach Yeung Ching-kwong was pleased with the performance but obviously not the outcome.
“We missed a couple of chances and it was a bit disappointing,” said Yeung. “The players have made some progress, especially in our defence but there is always room for improvement.”
Yeung said they still heard nothing from the Asian Football Confederation regarding the situation of Vissai Ninh Binh. Reports said the Vietnamese side yesterday announced their withdrawal from the V-League and the AFC Cup due to match-fixing scandals. Ninh Binh are leaders of the group with 13 points.
If the Vietnamese side pull out of the tournament, South China can make it to the AFC Cup knockout round provided they beat Kelantan of Malaysia at home on April 22.