Highly charged Sapling Cup final and FA Cup final looming
Kitchee and Kwoon Chung Southern are due to meet up on Sunday afternoon in Tseung Kwan O Sports Ground for the long overdue Sapling Cup final. The match will kick-off at 15:00 behind closed doors.
Despite stumbling out of the gate in the Sapling Cup group stage by picking up only a single point in its first two matches, Kitchee rebounded nicely and put together a six-game winning streak that saw the Shek Mun-based side securing the top spot in Group A, setting up a date against Kwoon Chung Southern in this season’s Sapling Cup final.
Since the restart of the premier league season, Kitchee has gone steadily improving, as the side fell short to Eastern Long Lions in its first game but bounced back and overcame Lee Man in a midweek fixture. Skipper Huang Yang, who suffered a seemingly nasty injury against Eastern Long Lions, made a surprising return against Lee Man and could be ready to lead his side out for the Sapling Cup final, which will be a tremendous boost to the squad.
Young defender Chan Shinichi has been a revelation for Kitchee so far this season and the fast-rising prospect has proven to be instrumental in Kitchee’s Sapling Cup run – of all the six Sapling Cup group matches that Chan has started for Kitchee this season, the team has enjoyed a 100% winning record in all of them.
Kwoon Chung Southern started this season’s Sapling Cup group stage with a victory over premier league powerhouse R&F. The impressive win set up Kwoon Chung Southern nicely for a strong cup-run, as the Hong Kong Island-based side went on to put together a seven-game unbeaten streak in the group stage, before finally suffering its first loss in this season’s Sapling Cup group stage at the hands of R&F. However, the loss had little effect on Kwoon Chung Southern’s brilliant showing in the competition, as the side eventually finished top of Group B and earned a coveted place in the final.
Led by newly appointed player-coach Zeshan Rehman, Kwoon Chung Southern has done quite alright since the restart of the current premier league campaign, even though it might not have shown up in the results column. Drawing R&F through a late-game equalizer should boost the team’s confidence and losing to perennial trophy-challenging Eastern Long Lions by a lone goal was nothing to be ashamed of.
Emerging goalkeeper Choy Tsz-to made five starts for Kwoon Chung Southern in the Sapling Cup group stage and repaid the team’s faith by dishing out three clean sheets. As a matter of fact, of all the five Sapling Cup group matches that Choy has started for the Hong Kong Island-side, Kwoon Chung Southern has yet to suffer a single defeat.
Eastern Long Lions and R&F are set to lock horns on Monday afternoon in Hong Kong Stadium for the highly anticipated FA Cup final. The match will go underway at 15:00 behind closed doors.
Mirroring the team’s superb league form so far this season, Eastern Long Lions has put together a great showing in the FA Cup. The premier league juggernaut dismantled BC Rangers in the opening round of the tournament through a commanding 8:2 victory, then edged nemesis Kitchee 2:0 in the quarter-final. Eastern Long Lions then took the final step by crushing Hong Kong Pegasus 5:0 in the semi-final, punching its ticket for the FA Cup finale.
Despite not playing for nearly six months due to the pandemic, Eastern Long Lions have largely picked up where they have left off since the restart of the premier league season – having already won two games on the trot. Make no mistake about it, Eastern Long Lions might just be the most in-form premier league side at the moment.
Lanky striker Alessandro Leonardo has been scoring for fun in this season’s FA Cup competition, as the Hong Kong international has found the back of the opposing net in every single FA Cup round for Eastern Long Lions and should be closely watched on matchday.
R&F has also enjoyed a great run in this season’s FA Cup competition. The team started its memorable cup-run by shutting out Happy Valley 4:0 in the quarter-final. Things got more challenging for R&F in the semi-final against Wofoo Tai Po, as the team was held to a 2:2 draw after regulation and extra-time, before eventually coming out on top in the penalty shootout, earning a place in the FA Cup final.
R&F was stunned at the premier league restart, as the powerhouse allowed a late equalizer against Kwoon Chung Southern and was forced to a disappointing 2:2 draw, dropping two valuable points in the process. However, R&F managed to redeem itself in the next game, smashing five goals past lowly Happy Valley and got back on the winning track through a commanding 5:2 victory, with striker Serge Deble netting an impressive hat-trick.
Igor Sartori was brought to R&F during the past offseason, hoping to become the final piece of the puzzle in R&F’s chase for silverware. The Brazilian has settled into his new surrounding nicely and has been delivering the goods for his new employers. In R&F’s two FA Cup matches so far this season, the attacking wizard has found the back of the net on both occasions and remains the team’s most consistent goal-scoring danger.