Reality check: Eastern coach Chan Yuen-ting suffers defeat in Senior Shield final
World-famous coach didn’t have it her way this time as Kitchee break the jinx and lift the first domestic trophy of the season for the first time in more than a decade
The honeymoon is over – at least for now – for Hong Kong’s world-famous woman’s coach Chan Yuen-ting who was brought down to earth in Sunday’s Senior Shield final.
Looking for her third major trophy since her surprise appointment as Eastern coach in December 2015, the darling of the Hong Kong Premier League received a reality check after her side suffered a 2-1 loss to arch-rivals Kitchee.
Eastern, the two-time defending Shield champions, had carried much hope that they would help their star coach win the first domestic silverware of the season and start 2017 off with a bang at Hong Kong Stadium.
But the 28-year-old Chan – the first female in the world to lead a club to a top-flight league title last season – discovered that things weren’t always going to go her way as Kitchee’s Jared Lum scored late on in the game. Andreas Lam Zhi-gin scored the opener for Kitchee before Miroslav Saric found the equaliser only for Lum to settle the issue in the 78th minute.
Chan was disappointed with the result, leaving the stadium without giving any comment to the waiting press corps.
Chan was later tracked down and admitted that Eastern’s performance was not bad and that “Kitchee deserved to win”.
“Kitchee pressed us hard in the first period but we were able to get back into the game after the break,” she said. “But the most important thing is that they [Kitchee] made less mistakes which is very important in a final and Kitchee deserved to win.
“Of course, we are not happy with the result. The team who makes less mistakes deserve to win the final game. I am satisfied with my players’ performance, they did what I told them to do but Kitchee were playing well as well.
“I don’t think it going to affect our confidence, as we did well in the game, It’s time to move on and concentrate on the league again,” she said. Eastern are one point behind Kitchee in the table.
Meanwhile, Kitchee clinched their first Senior Shield trophy in more than a decade in front of a crowd of 6,216. And they had Lam to thank after the German-born player was thrust into action by chance after Alex Akande injured himself warming up.
The midfielder was supposed to sit on the bench for the countdown of the first silverware of the season but was called into action just minutes before kick-off.
And the diminutive player didn’t let his club down, putting Kitchee ahead early in the game through a header. Lam had another chance to add to his tally in the second half but missed from close range before he was replaced.
Although Eastern pulled one back later through Miroslav Saric, Lum scored the winner with a superb goal after a neat team effort involving four Kitchee players to give the club their first title of the season and break their jinx in the oldest tournament in Hong Kong soccer after losing all three of their previous finals.
Kitchee last clinched the trophy in 2006 before losing their next three finals, including a 3-2 defeat by Eastern in 2015.
The 25-year-old Lam, who joined the Hong Kong league this season from German Second Division side Greuther Furth, was surprised by his sudden call-up.
“I was a bit surprised when I was told to replace [the injured] Alex just before the start of the match,” said Lam, who had a three-year spell with Bundesliga side Hamburg SV until 2014. “But I had no time to think about it and gave it my best on the field as I’ve always done. Indeed, this is my first goal from a header but it doesn’t matter as long as we won the trophy.
“Also, the coach put his faith in me and I wanted to give something back to the club, especially for this cup trophy which we hadn’t won in a long time. The victory would give us more confidence in the remaining season but there is still a long way to go.”
Kitchee head coach Chu Chi-kwong paid tribute to his players, saying they were determined to wrest the silverware from Eastern.
“We didn’t suffer any cup final hiccups today and were at our very best,” said Chu. “We created a couple of more chances after going into the lead but could not pull away from the score and even allowed Eastern to come back into equal terms.
“But we were unperturbed and made some right decisions at the right moment before getting back into the match and taking victory which we richly deserved.”