Early brace enough to fire Kitchee into the quarter-finals
Jang Kyung-jin and Lam Ka-wai the scorers as Hong Kong side overcome Indonesia's Arema at Mong Kok Stadium
Kitchee reached the AFC Cup quarter-finals for the second year in a row after defeating visitors Arema of Indonesia 2-0 before a fired-up crowd at Mong Kok Stadium on Wednesday night.
A two-goal blast in the space of five minutes early in the first half settled the one-off tie, with centre half Jang Kyung-jin and Lam Ka-wai the scorers. Jang's header, from Lam's corner kick in the fifth minute, was also the first goal the South Korean defender has scored since joining Kitchee in January.
Midfield powerhouse Lam then added to the tally with a solo effort from the left, cheering a strong crowd of 4,000, including several hundred Indonesian supporters, who chanted throughout the match despite the defeat of the visitors.
"We know they are very strong on attack but there were some loopholes in their defence which we took full advantage of it," said Lam, a Hong Kong international and a strong contender for the Footballer of the Year award.
"We worked very well as a unit tonight, both local players and expatriates, and now we can set our sights on reaching at least the semi-finals following such a spirited performance."
Kitchee lost to Al Faisaly of Jordan, 4-2 on aggregate, in last year's quarter-finals, but Lam said he was confident of surpassing that milestone. The draw for the quarter-finals will be made on May 28.
Arema's legion of foreign players failed to impress, especially in the second half when they seemed to be running out of stamina. Brazilian striker Alberto da Costa, top scorer in the Indonesia Super League two years ago, looked lacklustre and was substituted after the break.
Kitchee's acting head coach Chu Chi-kwong was proud of his team's performance, but admitted their opponents might have been hampered by the condition of the pitch following days of heavy downpours.
"We took two opportunistic goals in the early period, which gave us sufficient confidence," said Chu. "Our fitness level dropped in the second period but the boys were still able to keep possession well, hanging in there until the end."
Arema coach Suharno blamed lapses of concentration in the opening stages, the two early goals making it difficult for his players to recover.
"We conceded two goals in the first 10 minutes as the players were not disciplined and focused enough," he said.
"Also we had problems adapting to the pitch."