Group I: Hang Yuan FC 1-2 Kitchee SC
Taipei: Hong Kong’s Kitchee SC kept their slim hopes of a place in the next round of the 2019 AFC Cup alive on Wednesday with a 2-1 win over Hang Yuan FC from Chinese Taipei.
Fernando headed in the winner in the 69th minute after Jordi Tarres had given Kitchee the lead only to see their advantage cancelled out 17 minutes into the second half by an own goal from Matthew Smith.
The win moves Alex Chu’s team into second place in Group I, six points behind leaders 4.25 SC from DPR Korea with two games remaining and the two clubs due to face off in a potentially crucial clash on Matchday Six.
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Kitchee will need to win both of their remaining games – they are due to face domestic rivals Wofoo Tai Po on Matchday Five - and hope the club from Pyongyang slip to a loss when they face Hang Yuan on June 19. A draw or a win for 4.25 SC will see them secure qualification with a game remaining in the group phase.
Kitchee, knowing they needed to secure all three points to keep their ambitions alive, dominated the opening 45 minutes and were unfortunate to only take a one-goal lead into the half-time break.
Smith’s driven header following Ju Yingzhi free-kick from the left would have put the Hong Kong side ahead had it been directed either side of Hang Yuan goalkeeper Huang Chiu-lin, but the ball ended up in the arms of the home custodian.
Midway through the opening period the visitors went closer still, this time when Fernando wrapped his left foot around the ball after being played in behind the Hang Yuan defence. His shot gave Huang no chance but, rather than hitting the back of the net, his attempt came back off the crossbar.
With six minutes remaining in the half, however, Kitchee finally claimed the goal their dominance deserved. Another ball into the heart of the Hang Yuan defence from Ju – this time a corner – caused concern for the home side and eventually Tarres headed his effort in.
Kitchee were almost made to pay a heavy price for not adding to their advantage 62 minutes in when Smith steered Joo Ik-seong’s low cross into his own goal.
But within seven minutes the Hong Kong side were back in front when Fernando finished off a rapid-fire break when he threaded his header off Huang Yang’s cross into the narrowest of gaps to score and keep Kitchee’s 2019 AFC Cup campaign alive.
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