SOUTH China midfield general Leslie Santos, plagued by injuries all year, made an inspirational comeback for the Caroliners as they crushed Rangers 5-0 in a Hong Kong First Division match at the Mongkok Stadium last night. Making his first appearance in more than five months, Santos put the injury behind him with a brilliant second-half performance which also saw him crack home a magnificent volley. ''Considering I've been carrying an injury for more than nine months, during which I never had a full match, I'm very pleased with my performance,'' said 26-year-old Santos. ''I took a bit of time to settle down and wasn't that sharp in the first half, but my confidence is coming back and I hope to be back at my best pretty soon.'' Santos, who has been suffering from a sciatic nerve injury since January, feared his career might be over when he then damaged his left knee in a league match against British Forces in April. He had surgery on the knee during the summer and the five-month rest allowed him to make a full recovery from both the knee and sciatic nerve problems. ''I was scared I may not have fully recovered but the knee and back stood up well to the test and didn't bother me a bit,'' said Santos, twice Hong Kong Footballer of the Year. Newly promoted Rangers - they beat Club 1-0 in their opening league match last week - put up a gutsy performance in the first half and limited their more illustrious rivals to one goal, scored in the 30th minute by Ku Kam-fai following a goalmouth melee. Indeed, they had a golden opportunity to equalise eight minutes later with Pau Ka-yiu making a dangerous breakaway down the right. But South China goalkeeper Allen McKnight dashed off his line to snuff out the danger. South China, shaken and stirred, immediately came close to increasing their lead but Rangers goalkeeper James Picken made a brilliant save from Au Wai-lun's close-range shot. Rangers applied the pressure at the start of the second half and McKnight was called on to smother a close-range header by Pau. But Rangers folded after Au put South China two-up in the 56th minute. Shum Kwok-pui pushed a throughball to Au, whose shot deflected off defender Justin Crowe and into a corner of the net, giving Picken no chance. A one-two by Santos and Anto Grabo tore the Rangers defence apart six minutes later, capped with stunning volley by Santos which had South China fans in the 2,929 crowd in a jubilant frenzy. South China's Dutch striker Cornelius Gerestein then opened his scoring account. Hong Kong international Shum broke through down the middle and, when challenged by defender Crowe, unselfishly pushed the ball to Gerestein who netted with a drive from the edge of the box, making it 4-0. Gerestein had another chance minutes later but hesitated and then saw his shot saved. Santos was at his brilliant best four minutes from the final whistle when he shrugged off the challenge from three Rangers defenders to cross from the bye-line for Au to tap home the fifth close range.