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BC Rangers fans celebrate their side’s 1-0 win over Lee Man at Hammer Hill Road Sports Ground. Photo: Edmond So

Hong Kong Premier League: Lee Man fire head coach Chan Hiu-ming after shock loss to BC Rangers

  • Boss Chan Hiu-ming shown the door after 1-0 loss to BC Rangers sees his side knocked off top spot
  • Defending champions Kitchee move to the top of the table after thrashing Sham Shui Po 7-0

Lee Man head coach Chan Hiu-ming was fired after a surprising 1-0 defeat by BC Rangers on Sunday, despite the side being top of the Hong Kong Premier League before the game started.

Walter Belitardo Jnr’s first-half goal at Hammer Hill Sports Ground was enough to separate the two sides, and bring a juddering halt to Lee Man’s streak of seven consecutive wins in the league.

Kitchee’s 7-0 thrashing of Sham Shui Po moved them above their rivals to the top of the table, and in a statement, Lee Man said Chan’s assistant, Tsang Chiu-tat, would take temporary charge of the team.

“Chan has been our head coach since 2018 and has steered the club to the Sapling Cup champion and a semi-final place in the 2021 AFC Cup,” the statement said. “The club would like to thank his contribution over the years and wish him all the best in his future.”

Chan declined to comment after being contacted by the Post.

Lee Man head coach Chan Hiu-ming at a pre-match press conference before his side’s AFC Cup clash with Tainan City. Photo: Lee Man

Kitchee’s demolition of Sham Shui Po at Mong Kok Stadium lifted them to 27 points, three points above their rivals, who had been leading for most of the season.

Chan had given no indication that he expected to be fired after the game, and while being disappointed in the result, remained upbeat.

“The only difference is now we must beat Kitchee again in the second round whereas we just need a draw if we hold the advantage of a better record against them,” he said. “The league is a long journey and there are bound to be ups and downs. We must not lose the confidence after one disappointing result.”

Both teams were tied on equal points before Sunday’s fixture, but Lee Man stayed top with a better head-to-head record after a 2-1 win over Kitchee in October.

And now Lee Man must beat Kitchee if they want to regain that advantage, provided neither side drops any points between now and when they play again in May.

Despite having more control of the game, especially in the second half when Lee Man brought on Spanish forward Manuel Gavilan, they could not break down a stubborn Rangers defence, superbly marshalled by man-of-the-match Jean Kilama.

Lee Man’s best chance came early in the first half when Chang Hei-yin’s low drive cannoned off the post and into the grateful arms of Rangers goalkeeper Leung Hing-kit.

Before that, Japanese midfielder Yumemi Kanda had come close to scoring for Rangers, when his powerful shot was tipped onto the bar by goalkeeper Chan Ka-ho.

Rangers though did not wait too long to go ahead, with Belitardo Jnr finding the target from close range on 37 minutes after a neat pass from Ryota Hayashi.

“We played the best match so far this season,” Casemiro Mior, the Rangers technical director, said. “It’s not Kilama only, all other players also made contribution. We will play with the attitude when we meet Kitchee later this month.”