Teenager Harima Hirokane is Kitchee hero as he comes off bench to win AFC Cup tie against Kaya
Eighteen-year-old scores late invaluable winner in Manila
Kitchee snatched a 1-0 AFC Cup soccer win against Kaya FC in close to 40-degree heat in Manila on Tuesday to give themselves a terrific chance of winning group F.
Teenage substitute Harima Hirokane scored the winner with five minutes to go, side-footing home from six yards after the Kaya goalkeeper flapped at a corner from Lam Ka-wai.
“It was my second touch of the ball after being brought into the match. It’s just terrific,” said the 18-year-old, who was born in Hong Kong to a Japanese father and a Chinese mother. “I did talk to my roommate before the match saying I would score. I am so happy it did come true.
“I hope this is just the beginning and there will be more chances for me in the future, especially in domestic competitions, even if it’s only a chance of sitting on the bench.”
It was only Hirokane’s third match for the senior team this season. He also featured in their last AFC Cup match against New Radiant of Maldives and played against Eastern in the Sapling Cup, coming on as a second-half substitute in both encounters.
In a game stopped every 15 minutes for water breaks, Kitchee were on the back foot for much of the 90 minutes, before stealing the win on 85 minutes.
Kitchee had goalkeeper Wang Zhenpeng to thank for denying Kaya the lead in the second half with a great save, while Louis Clark missed a tap-in chance for the hosts.
Spaniard Rufino Segovia looked like coming closest to winning it for Kitchee but fired straight at the goalkeeper with 10 minutes to go.
“The match was played in tough conditions – the heat affected our performance and the opponents as well,” said captain Lo Kwan-yee. “We were under pressure in the second half, but thanks to Hirokane’s goal we now stand a good chance of finishing top of the group.”
The result means Kitchee have overtaken Kaya by one point to lead the group on 10 points.
Victory in their remaining game, at home to Balestier Khalsa of Singapore, will seal their place as group winners and ensure they avoid an away tie in the last 16.
Meanwhile, South China will host Yangon United of Myanmar in group G at Mong Kok Stadium on Wednesday night. They must beat the visitors to keep their hopes alive.