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AFC Champions League

History made as Kitchee become first Hong Kong club to earn victory in the AFC Champions League

A brilliant last-minute strike from Cheng Chin-lung ensured all three points for the Hong Kong Premier League side

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 March, 2018, 10:52pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 March, 2018, 10:03am

Hong Kong Premier League side Kitchee made history on Wednesday night by earning the city’s first-ever win in the AFC Champions League.

The league leaders beat Japanese side Kashiwa Reysol 1-0 at Hong Kong Stadium thanks to a late goal from right midfielder Cheng Chin-lung.

The winger cut inside after good work from former Uruguayan World Cup star Diego Forlan and unleashed a curling strike into the Japanese keeper’s top corner to ensure the first-ever win for a Hong Kong side in the continent’s premier competition.

Goalscorer Cheng couldn’t contain his delight after scoring the winning goal and giving his team a place in the record books.

“I’m excited and happy for two reasons. One: a very valuable three points, and the other a first-ever goal in the AFC Champions League. It will bring me more confidence.”

Watch: Cheng Chin-lung’s wonder strike for Kitchee

“I can score with both feet. I will always try to score and when I get the opportunity I will try to score.

“ The coaches encouraged me to shoot on sight.”

Kitchee’s first-ever Champions League victory could be just around the corner after narrow loss to Kashiwa Reysol

“The coach has given me a lot of playing time, opportunities and encouragement. Thanks to my dad too,who told me ‘You don’t shoot, you don’t score’. I also want to thank my teammates for keeping up the running and giving me a chance to win it for Kitchee.”

J-League side Kashiwa Reysol had beaten Kitchee 1-0 in Japan last week to leave the Hong Kong side with zero points after three games.

Many observers saw this as Kitchee’s best chance at getting a point on the board, a hope that was furthered once Kashiwa defender Masashi Kamekawa was sent off inside the first 10 minutes.

Kashiwa had the lion’s share of the possession and the chances despite being a man down but Kitchee plugged away and got the historic win.

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Reysol coach Takehiro Shimetaira defended his decision to rest some of the J-League side’s star players, including Cristiano who started from the bench, rueing the red card.

Kitchee coach Chu Chi-kwong was well pleased with his team’s performance and the historic three points, which he said augurs well for the future.

“I’m really pleased. We managed to keep pace with one of the top teams in the competition. Kitchee will improve in the future. We have the ability to compete with the top teams in Asia.”

Chu was delighted Cheng had found the net, saying he had faith in his player and that he wasn’t surprised that he scored.

The Hong Kong champions take on Chinese Super League side Tianjin Quanjian at Mong Kok Stadium on April 4 and will look to add to their historic three points.

Tianjin Quanjian, who shocked Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 4-2 at home in the other group E game of the evening, visit Kitchee on April 4.

Having now put Hong Kong’s first three points on the board in the Champions League there is no reason why Kitchee won’t believe they can get at least one more.

Kitchee’s next game is against BC Rangers in the Sapling Cup on Sunday.