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Friday, December 07, 2018, 17:13
R&F on top of Hong Kong Premier League
By Tobias Zuser
Friday, December 07, 2018, 17:13 By Tobias Zuser

Kitchee beat Pegasus 3-0 on Nov 30. (PHOTO COURTESY OF HKFA)

Following two convincing victories in the Premier League against Kitchee and most recently Yuen Long, Guangzhou-based R&F have finally climbed to the top of the table, where they currently sit one point ahead of Eastern. However, the latter still have a game in hand against winless Hoi King, which has been rescheduled for January.

Meanwhile, the HKFA women’s team has finished its qualifying campaign for the East Asian Football Federation Football Championship, which took place between Dec 1 and Dec 5 in Guam. Compared to the rather successful Olympic qualifiers, the results this time were less satisfactory. The team lost its opening match 0-2 to Chinese Taipei, and then succumbed to a 0-6 defeat in their game against the Chinese national team. Nonetheless, they managed to end on positive terms with a 3-0 win over Mongolia. Overall, head coach Ricardo Rambo was satisfied with the outcome, particularly when considering the difficult circumstances, such as extremely early kick-off times and limited hours of rest between games.

For now, the focus shifts back to the men’s competition of the Hong Kong Premier League, with the last round of 2018 being played on the weekend of Dec 8 and Dec 9. However, the game between Kitchee and Dreams has been rescheduled to Dec 29. The rest of the month will mainly see fixtures in the Sapling Cup as well as the Senior Shield semi-finals, which are traditionally held over the Christmas holidays.

R&F v SOUTHERN, Premier League, Yanzigang Stadium, Sat Dec 8, 2:30 pm

On Saturday afternoon, league leaders R&F will host third-placed Southern in Guangzhou, which could easily turn into a direct battle for the top spot. After some troubles at the beginning of the season, R&F coach Yeung Ching-kwong seems to have started to leave his mark on the team. Aside from Brazilian striker Tiago de Leonco, Yeung can also count on the outstanding performances of former Kitchee players such as Andreas Lam Zhi-gin and Lo Kwan-yee. 38-year-old Itaparica, who is a HKSAR passport holder, also remains a constant threat via set pieces. Southern had a perfect start into the new season, but recently struggled to keep their momentum alive. The match against R&F might be a defining moment for the Aberdeeners and their involvement in this year’s title race.

Tai Po and Eastern shared points last weekend in a 0-0 draw at Hong Kong Stadium. (PHOTO COURTESY OF HKFA)

TAI PO v LEE MAN, Premier League, Tai Po Sports Ground, Sat Dec 8, 2:30 pm

Simultaneously with R&F and Southern, Tai Po will take on Lee Man at home on Saturday afternoon as well. The Greens have just held title favorites Eastern to a 0-0 draw last weekend, successfully shutting out the likes of Manuel Bleda and Everton Camargo. While the point was certainly a success, Tai Po will be expected to take all three points from Lee Man this round. The team was recently visited by the father of Brazilian striker Igor Sartori, Alcindo Sartori, who was a teammate of Zico during his time in Japan with Kashima Antlers in the early 1990s. Lee Man have yet to fulfil any expectations, although the recent 1-1 with Southern could be a first step into the right direction. However, their main priority is still to put some distance to the relegation spot, as they currently share points with ninth-placed Dreams FC.

EASTERN v PEGASUS, Premier League, Hong Kong Stadium, Sat Dec 8, 5:30 pm

Although Eastern dropped two points in their 0-0 with Tai Po, they still remain the only unbeaten team in this season so far. Coach Chan Yuen-ting has instilled her team with new confidence, and they will be motivated to claim back the top spot of the league this weekend. Spaniard Manuel Bleda is still the best striker so far, having scored seven league goals in his six appearances, excluding his goals in both Senior Shield and Sapling Cup. While only placed sixth in the table at the moment, Pegasus are actually not too far off from the rest. In fact, they are just five points behind leaders R&F and the recent results of the Flying Horsemen suggest that you cannot write them off just yet. Nonetheless, last Friday they eventually suffered a 0-3 defeat to Kitchee, but the match was more competitive than the result might suggest.

Hoi King suffered a narrow 3-4 defeat against Dreams FC in the most recent relegation battle. (PHOTO COURTESY OF HKFA)

HOI KING v YUEN LONG, Premier League, Sham Shui Po Sports Ground, Sun Dec 9, 2:30 pm

Last but not least, Hoi King will lock horns with Yuen Long on Sunday afternoon at Sham Shui Po Sports Ground. The Kingsmen still find themselves at the bottom of the league with zero points after six games. However, they came close last weekend when they suffered a narrow 3-4 loss to Dreams FC. 40-year-old Chris Annan contributed again one of the goals, the fourth of the season, which puts him among the best local strikers thus far. But the team will need to improve their defensive performance if they want to keep their hopes alive to stay in the Premier League for another season. Meanwhile, Yuen Long had an unsuccessful trip to Guangzhou, where they lost 2-5 to R&F. The Tangerines are currently only seventh in the league, but just two points behind Tai Po and Pegasus. For many, Yuen Long are also still somewhat of the dark horses this season, as coach Kenneth Kwok has certainly overachieved with this squad, which was tipped as a relegation candidate this year. Instead, they have impressed with attractive football and modern tactics.

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