Sun Hei lift Cup to sweep four titles
A dream came true for Sun Hei yesterday when defender Carlo Hartwig scored the winning goal in the last minute of extra-time in the Xiangxue Pharmaceutical FA Cup final, making it a quadruple season for the first division side.
With the match about to be decided by a penalty shootout after being deadlocked at 1-1 in nearly 120 minutes, Hartwig surprised the 1,900 crowd by hitting a thundering 20-metre free-kick to give Sun Hei a 2-l victory over arch-rivals Happy Valley at Hong Kong Stadium.
The win also brought Sun Hei a clean sweep of all four titles for the season - Senior Shield, League Cup, first division title and now the FA Cup.
It had been 14 years since former giants South China did the seemingly impossible when the Caroliners won the League, Senior Shield, FA Cup and Viceroy Cup in the 1990-91 season.
A delighted club president Raymond Chow Man-leung admitted it was the best way to wrap up the season - a goal in the final minute of extra time and a clean sweep of all four titles. 'I need to thank the players, coach, staff and fans for their support over the entire season. A dream come true,' said Chow.
Although the club official refused to comment on a speculated $3 million bonus to the players for winning all four titles, the Hong Kong Football Association confirmed they would pay Sun Hei a special award of $500,000 for winning all four titles in one season, on top of the $80,000 prize money for winning the FA Cup.
'We are talking about an award of over $1 million. I will sort it out with our club sponsors and officials and reveal the amount very soon. In any case, the players will be very happy,' said Chow. It is believed that a financier of the club has promised the players a staggering $2 million for the domestic quadruple.
Chow also disclosed that they had already looked into next season and would likely strengthen the squad in several positions in order to continue their domination of Hong Kong soccer.
'We have spent about $7 million this season and will invest more in the new season. We may bring in a couple of players up front while the midfield is another area that we will look into.'
Referring to the match, Chow admitted they were prepared to take the penalty shootout before Hartwig's goal.
'It was just amazing. We kept trying until the final minutes and just when all efforts seemed to be in vain, there came the goal. I would also say luck was on our side as well,' he said.
Valley opened the scoring in the 40th minute through a header from Clodoaldo De Oliveira after Sun Hei goalkeeper failed to clear a free-kick from the right. Sun Hei's Cornelius Udebuluzor and Julius Akosah both had missed chances minutes before the goal.
They had to wait until 15 minutes into the second half when Akosah picked up a flick-on from teammate Lee Kin-wa to level the scores.
Although Sun Hei were the better side, they failed to add to the tally and the match went into extra time before Hartwig's goal made the difference.
'I also scored the same goal from a free-kick when we beat Valley in the Senior Shield final, but this one was much more important,' said the Brazilian defender.