Kitchee in box seat in AFC Cup quarter-finals
Hong Kong side hold firm to seal 4-2 first-leg victory over Vissai Ninh Binh of Vietnam
Striker Juan Belencoso put the icing on the cake with an instinctive strike in stoppage time as Kitchee beat Vissai Ninh Binh of Vietnam 4-2 in their AFC Cup quarter-final, first-leg match last night.
After scoring the opening goal with an unmarked header in the first half against the home team, the Spaniard was gifted his second and the fourth for Kitchee, thanks to a horrendous blunder by the Ninh Binh goalkeeper.
Tran Buu Ngoc was well in command to clear a long ball from Kitchee midfielder Ngan Lok-fung that landed in front of Belencoso, but instead of an easy clearance, Nguyen miskicked the ball, leaving Belencoso the task of slotting home into an open goal from 30 metres out.
It was the 10th goal for Belencoso in the regional cup. He is also the leading scorer in the competition.
Kitchee's four-goal away haul against the Vietnamese side will be crucial going into the return quarter-final leg at Mong Kok Stadium next week.
Ngan, who scored Kitchee's second goal and assisted teammate Xu Deshuai for the third, was delighted with his debut.
"This is the first time I have started in an AFC Cup tie and I dreamed of such a result," said the 21-year-old, who was on loan to Royal Southern last season.
"Scoring one goal and making an assist is like a dream come true. I did make a mistake which led to a Ninh Binh goal, putting the team under great pressure in the second half, but the most important thing is we won the match."
Coach Jose Molina acknowledged they are in a good position to make the last four after the impressive away showing.
"We had a good match and we prepared for it for a long time," said the Spaniard, who had vowed to win the tie before the match. "Ninh Binh showed they are not without quality as they came back strongly in the second half, giving us some nervous moments. I would expect a tough match next week as they won't give up without a fight."
Only two teams from Hong Kong have ever reached the AFC Cup semi-finals. Sun Hei did it in 2005 before losing to Nejmeh SC of Lebanon, while South China were beaten by Kuwait Sport Club in the penultimate stage in 2009.