Newly promoted Southern rose off the bottom of the table after fighting hard to a stalemate against South China in the RedMR First Division yesterday - their third draw in a row.
As the whistle blew to end the clash between the leading side and the cellar-dwellers at Hong Kong Stadium, Southern players reacted as if they were the winners, their tight and neat defence having repeatedly frustrated their vaunted opponents.
"Our defence was very discipline today," said Southern coach Fung Hoi-man. "We were a bit worried that the big pitch might present more difficulties for us in holding a top side, but in the end our game plan worked. The goalkeeper, the back five, the two defensive midfielders as well as the other boys have all done a great job and they deserve the point."
With three points in the pocket, the newcomers have overtaken Sunray Cave Sun Hei and are now second from the bottom by a single-point advantage, although Sun Hei may reverse the positions when they take on Wofoo Tai Po today. If champions Kitchee beat Sun Pegasus today at home, they can make up the two-point gap between them and the Caroliners. Fung said the team had shown marked improvement after losing their first three matches in the top flight.
"It always takes time to adapt to a new environment and we are moving in the right direction," he said.
"We will now focused on strengthening our attack so we can stay in the First Division next season. I am confident we can do so.
South China captain Lee Chi-ho admitted they had to sharpen their finishing or face similar failures in future against defensive sides.
"Luck was not on our side as we missed many goalmouth chances," he said. "But we also have to say our attack was hardly ideal and we have to improve."
Elsewhere, Tuen Mun moved to third place after a lacklustre 1-0 victory over visitors BC Rangers.
Daniel Quevedo scored the winner a minute into the second half, capitalising on a poor clearance by Rangers defender Liu Songwei.