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Hong Kong Premier League

Hong Kong Premier League: will Eastern or R&F stop the Kitchee juggernaut? Talking points from round one

Despite one fixture being rained off there were 20 goals in four games on opening weekend, including a 4-4 goal fest between Tai Po and Yuen Long

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 September, 2018, 9:28am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 September, 2018, 9:28am

The Hong Kong Premier League kicked off on Friday night and there were plenty of talking points after the opening weekend of action despite only four of the five games taking place.

Southern v Hoi King was rained off on Saturday, meaning we did not get a look at the HKPL new boys but elsewhere there were goals and subplots in abundance.

Not a bad start before we take off for a much needed international break.

Can anyone stop Kitchee?

It took barely eight minutes for last season’s champions to go a goal up through Fernando and while incident was conspicuous by its absence for almost all of the next 80-odd minutes, Kitchee never looked troubled by Lee Man.

Instead, they looked like they had a lot more to offer – marquee signing Momo Sissoko running, for example, as he looked the most leggy of a team in need of dusting off the cobwebs. Playing badly and winning is the mark of champions.

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They were top on Friday night and while Pegasus winning 4-1 meant they did not finish the weekend in first, played one, won one, from the team unbeaten last season has to be a worry for the rest of the division.

Kitchee will be put to the test – they play R&F when the HKPL returns.

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It’s all about the narrative

There are plenty of former Kitchee players around the rest of the league that would like to see their former club stopped from winning the title.

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Guangzhou-based R&F signed many promising Hongkongers in the summer to create a bizarre situation where the team with the likely highest number of local starters is cheered on by fans from the mainland.

One of those players, Lo Kwan-yee, was sent off for catching his former teammate and good friend, Lam Ka-wai, in their loss to Eastern.

Eastern mean business

The whole squad were at Tseung Kwan O to watch Kitchee on Friday and they started Sunday’s game off the brighter, but t he champions of three seasons ago got away with frittering a penalty and going behind twice in a 3-2 win at Hong Kong Stadium. The fans were in fine voice, especially at the dramatic climax.

They equalised at 90 and new signing Jose Angel bagged the winner four minutes into injury time. Staff ran onto the pitch and piled onto the players, with coach Chan Yuen-ting (“Beef Ball”) coming close to joining the pile.

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Goal of the week

Everyone loves a direct free kick and Tiago Leonco capped off a fine performance by putting this on a postage stamp. A nod to Yuto Nakamura’s debut strike for Kitchee after a Barcelona-style passing move.

There’s a reason for football cliches

A 4-4 draw between Yuen Long and Tai Po was proof of one of the game’s oldest truths: you’re at your most vulnerable when you have just scored. The tit-for-tat saw Yuen Long take the lead four times, only to be pegged back every time.

Four of the goals came within three minutes of the other team scoring – three in the opening five minutes and then the final goal soon after what the home side must have hoped was the winner.

The pitch could have been a contributing factor in teams being unable to keep possession after scoring. There were only 168 completed passes in the whole game.

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Can the sides keep up this scoring?

Only one game was goalless and that was only because it wasn’t played – the expectation being that newly promoted Hoi King will not be involved in too many 0-0 scorelines this season.

That score of 20 goals will surely go up when Southern and Hoi Kong play their rearranged fixture at Aberdeen on Saturday, September 8.

Are R&F the real title rivals?

For much of their loss to Eastern, the Guangzhou team looked the more likely to challenge Kitchee for the title. Perhaps they should after a summer of high-profile recruitment aided by sister club Guangzhou R&F and the biggest budget in the HKPL.

But they were unlucky not to get something after twice taking the lead and playing some sumptuous football.

One red card on the pitch and two in the dugout, including new boss Yeung Ching-kwong, cost them in the end but they will be there or thereabouts in May. They can prove that when Kitchee host them in round two.

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Round 2 Fixtures

Friday September 14

Dreams v Southern – 8pm - Tsing Yi Sports Ground

Saturday September 15

Tai Po v Pegasus – 2.30pm – Tai Po Sports Ground

Lee Man v Yuen Long – 5.30pm – Tseung Kwan O Sports Ground

Sunday September 16

Kitchee v R&F – 2.30pm – Mong Kok Stadium

Eastern v Hoi King – 5.30pm – Hong Kong Stadium