Eastern warm coach Chan Yuen-ting’s heart with her first silverware
Senior Shield success comes quickly for pioneer
A dream became reality on Sunday for Eastern coach Chan Yuen-ting - the first woman in such a high-profile role in Hong Kong soccer - as Xu Deshuai helped her side to their 10th Senior Shield title with a 2-0 victory over Kwoon Chung Southern.
More than 4,500 fans braved the frigid conditions at Hong Kong Stadium but they had little to cheer about as both sides were mediocre.
But 27-year-old Chan, who was only appointed to the top job last month after the departure of Yeung Ching-kwong, was not feeling the cold.
“I feel very excited as this is something real, it’s not a dream any more,” said Chan, who has now won all the four matches since her appointment.
“Winning the Senior Shield is my first target and now we have to focus back on the league. We have the advantage but cannot take anything for granted.”
Xu had never won the shield despite his association with previous champions including Citizen, South China and Kitchee.
The Hong Kong international blasted home a free kick shortly after the break then crossed for Andrew Barisic to head home with six minutes remaining.
“It was hardly impressive but we were able to manage two chances and walked away with the trophy,” said Xu.
“I don’t think it had anything to do with the weather as we warmed up for the match. It was the pressure of a cup final that made us underperform, but as long as we are the champions, it doesn’t matter.”
The winger hoped the trophy would give them more impetus as the Premier League leaders are challenging all major titles this season.
“Winning the shield will be a big boost to the team morale but there is still a long way to go. The championship remains our biggest target,” he said.
Chan agreed they were unimpressive in the first half and could have been vulnerable to a set-piece strike or a defensive blunder.
“We brought in Michel Lugo in the second half and he made the difference,” said the coach. “He earned the free-kick for Xu to score and was able to weave our attack from midfield. That was the turning point.”
Southern goalkeeper Tse Tak-him was disappointed with the result because it was their first cup final in the top flight.
“We lost but are happy with the promotional work we have done,” said Tse. “That’s why we have so many fans who came to support us despite the adverse weather.”