Older heads recalled by Caroliners
SOUTH China will bank on experience rather than youth for today's grudge match with bitter rivals Eastern in the Hongkong First Division at Mongkok Stadium.
After seeing a run of four successive league victories ended by Instant-Dict on Thursday, the Caroliners have changed their line-up as they attempt to avert a third hammering of the season at the hands of table-topping Eastern.
Veteran skipper Chan Ping-on moves back from midfield to sweeper at the expense of Au Yeung Ying-tsz, Koo Kam-fai returns to anchor the midfield in place of the injured Shum Kwok-pui and Loh Wai-chi is back on the right wing.
Eastern, with 27 points from nine victories, will be at full strength but the management have still to decide which player - either Lai Law-kau or Philip Chan Chi-keung - will mark South China's strong-running Bosnian striker, Anto Grabo.
Eastern have already inflicted two crushing defeats on the Caroliners this season, beating them 5-0 on the opening day of the league campaign on September 20 and following up with a 4-0 win in the final of the Camelpaint Challenge Shield on December 20.
South China centre-half George Haniotis has been on the receiving end in both matches - in more ways than one.
In the first game he was sent off for hauling down Eastern striker Dale Tempest and in the final he was on the end of a head-butt from Ross Greer, an act which produced a red card and a one-match ban for the Eastern winger.
According to Haniotis, that episode is now closed - and the pride of South China is at stake this afternoon.
''We were teammates for the Hongkong League XI in the New Year tournament and the incident was all forgotten,'' said Haniotis.
The Aussie defender said the pressure would be on Eastern today now that South China's chances of holding on to their league championship had virtually disappeared following their 3-0 defeat by Instant-Dict, a setback which left them 11 points adrift of the leaders.
''Our management are quite happy with how things have been going lately and are not pessimistic at all.''