Kitchee SC edge 4.25 SC in final group tie
Hong Kong: 4.25 SC's winning run was ended by Kitchee SC but it mattered little as the DPR Korea side advanced to the AFC Cup Inter-Zone semi-finals as the East Zonal champions.
The 1-0 defeat – 4.25’s first in six outings – nevertheless saw the Koreans retain their position at the top of the Group I standings, and they will now line-up alongside the winners of the ASEAN, Central and South in the next stage of the competition having performed superbly throughout the group stage.
The result, meanwhile, left Kitchee to reflect on what could have been after a campaign in which they garnered three wins and a draw en route to finishing five points behind their table-topping opponents.
After a slow start to proceedings at the Mong Kok Stadium, 4.25 fashioned the first genuine opportunity of the match when Pak Myong-song fired a free-kick narrowly wide of the target with 12 minutes on the clock.
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Kitchee forward Fernando replied with a fine effort from distance which sailed narrowly over seven minutes later, before home goalkeeper Guo Jianqiao gathered well at his near post to deny the impressive Rim Chol-min.
With genuine chances few and far between, the deadlock was finally broken on 39 minutes, Fernando controlling a pass from Li Ngai Hoi and expertly guiding the ball home past a static An Tae-song in the 4.25 goal.
Rim could, and probably should, have levelled matters on the stroke of half-time but the forward somehow directed his close-range header over the bar to leave Kitchee one goal to the good heading into the break.
Clearly intent on preserving their unbeaten record, 4.25 regrouped at the start of the second period, but it was Kitchee who came closest to scoring again as Fernando capped a magnificent surging run with a shot which was smothered by the onrushing An Tae-song.
The omnipresent Rim then forced Gou into a fine sprawling save from another trademark free-kick shortly after the hour mark, while substitute Chan Shinichi was within inches of doubling Kitchee’s lead courtesy of a curling drive on 73 minutes.
Gou subsequently denied Son Phyong-il from an angle and then watched on as Choe Jong-Hyok failed to connect properly with Rim’s astute header when well-placed in the area.
Yu Yang Bosley and Pak Myong-Song missed late on for Kitchee and 4.25 respectively, but it mattered little to the visitors who will progress to the next phase of the competition still harbouring hopes of claiming what would be an historic first-ever AFC Cup title.
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