Striker Daniel McBreen leads AFC Cup play-off charge for South China
Australian scores both goals in Caroliners 2-0 win over Eastern
Inspired by striker Daniel McBreen, South China moved into the final of a play-off for the AFC Cup with a 2-0 victory over Eastern on Thursday night.
The towering Australian played probably his best domestic match since joining the Hong Kong heavyweights in January, notching both goals at Mong Kok Stadium.
"This is the first time I have scored two goals in a home match and it is an important win for us," said McBreen, who also paid tribute to teammates. "When your mentality is right, you play well and we proved it tonight."
The 38-year-old, who will be out of contract next month, said: "I am happy to stay here, but we still have two important matches coming up and let's finish them first before talking about any contract."
South China now await the winners of another play-off, between Sun Pegasus and YFCMD tomorrow, for a place in the 2016 AFC Cup. The play-off final will be on May 30.
For Eastern, it was their second defeat in a row after losing to Kitchee in the FA Cup final.
"It was hard for the boys as they had to regroup in a short period of time and play again," said Eastern assistant director Au Wai-lun.
"We had set our sights on starring in the regional competitions next season and now we have to adjust our plans.
"The team had been doing well until we lost a crucial league match to Kitchee, which also ruined our chances of capturing the championship."
Kitchee, as league champions, automatically gain a berth in the AFC Cup and a chance to play in the AFC Champions League qualifying play-off.
South China took the lead after 18 minutes when McBreen latched on to a low free kick from Manoel Santos to power home with a neat turn.
Speedy winger Mahama Awal - who was back in action after recovering from an injury - was dangerous on the break and was unlucky not to score. An attempt after 14 minutes was inches wide of the target after beating Eastern goalkeeper Yapp Hung-fai, who also parried away another Awal effort after McBreen's goal.
South China continued to pour on the pressure with McBreen coming close to scoring before another effort paid off when he picked up an accurate cross from Lo Kong-wai to slot home.
The Caroliners were able to maintain control, taking advantage of a tired Eastern side struggling to fire again after their 120-minute weekend battle against Kitchee in the FA Cup.