South China edge heated semi-final
HOLDERS South China scrambled into their 13th Viceroy Cup final in its 25-year history by beating Sing Tao 1-0 in a controversial semi-final at the Hong Kong Stadium last night.
Sing Tao, reduced to 10 men in the 35th minute when skipper John Moore was dismissed for his second bookable offence, hung on gamely until the 75th minute.
Only then did South China find a way through a solid defence with their extra man. When substitute Wan Ho-yin crossed from the right, Anto Grabo climbed above the defence but saw his header strike the crossbar and bounce back into the goalmouth.
Grabo's strike-partner, Alen Bajkusa, reacted first to steer his header into the corner for his third goal in the Caroliners' colours but easily his most important.
Although South China had central defender Marcel Liesdek sent off in injury time, victory was in sight by then and they now meet favourites Instant-Dict in Sunday's final at the Hong Kong Stadium.
The turning point of the match came in the 35th minute with the dismissal of Moore, who lost his temper and kicked out at South China skipper Ku Kam-fai in a midfield skirmish. Having already been booked for a foul on Liesdek, Moore was on his way to the changing rooms and his side were without a recognised striker.
After the game, which produced receipts of over $1 million, a dejected Moore said: ''South China were there for the taking and we had a really good chance to beat them - but I let the side down.
''It was a moment of madness and frustration on my part. I got kicked by someone and retaliated on the nearest player. I deserved to get sent off and I regret what I did.'' With Moore playing as Sing Tao's sole forward, Liesdek was determined to give him as little room as possible to work in and the pair featured in a series of niggly fouls from the first whistle.
When Moore was shown the red card, Sing Tao merely abandoned their forward line and had few problems keeping the game goalless until the break.
In the second half they pushed left-winger Chan Tsz-kong through the middle but again South China deployed Liesdek to look after the lone raider when they could have used his ball-playing and organisational skills to sort out their aimless midfield.
A succession of bungled free kicks and mis-placed passes, combined with some sterling defensive work, particularly from Sing Tao left-back Ian Docker, meant the score stayed at 0-0 until Wan, Grabo and Bajkusa combined to break the stalemate.
Sing Tao substitute Wai Kwan-lung thought he had equalised in the 77th minute when his snap shot caused problems for South China's Dutch 'keeper, Werner Kooistra, at his near post. The Sing Tao players near the goal and large sections of the fans thought the ball had crossed the line but the officials did not and South China were on their way to the final.
South China (4-4-2): Werner Kooistra; Chan Ping-on, Ku Kam-fai (Wan Ho-yin, 60), Marcel Liesdek, Chan Wai-chiu; Loh Wai-chi (Au Wai-lun, 46), Shum Kwok-pui, Chiu Chung-man, Wu Qun-li; Anto Grabo, Alen Bajkusa.
Sing Tao (5-4-1): Harvey Lim; How Yiu-pun, Richard Lant, Lai Law-kau, Tam Ah-fook, Ian Docker; Lau Chi-yuen, David Clarkson, Chu Yue-tai, Chan Tsz-kong (Wai Kwan-lung, 68); John Moore.
Man of the Match: Ian Docker (Sing Tao).
Rangers have allowed new signing John Macdonald to move to Kui Tan, joining another former Rangers player in Steven Raynes.
Kitchee registered Lee Bullen, Damian Webber, Jason Loryman, Mick Matthews and Rogerio as their five foreign players for the league, de-registering Antonyo, Tristram Morgan and Jon Widdows.