|Fiery Sapling Cup group stage battles await on Friday, Saturday and Sunday
Sapling Cup group stage fixtures continue to roll on, as Hong Kong Pegasus is due to face BC Rangers on Friday afternoon for a Sapling Cup Group A battle. Match venue for the tilt will be Jockey Club HKFA Football Training Centre Pitch No. 3 and kick-off time is set for 1:00pm. The match will be played behind closed doors.
Friday’s game against BC Rangers will be Hong Kong Pegasus’ first match-action in nearly a month. The side currently occupies the third spot in Group A, with nine points from four games, trailing group leaders Eastern Long Lions and Kitchee by four points but has two games in hand. Edging Eastern Long Lions in its previous Sapling Cup group outing has demonstrated how dangerous Hong Kong Pegasus can be on any given day. Young forward Chang Hei-yin, who bagged the match-winner for Hong Kong Pegasus against Eastern Long Lions, is due for another potential appearance and should be chomping his bits to see match-action.
Lying at the foot of Group A, BC Rangers is coming off a tough 3:0 Sapling Cup loss against Kitchee. With the chance of qualifying for the Sapling Cup final out of the picture, BC Rangers is merely playing out the string of its fixtures in the tournament, yet that should not stop proud veterans and intriguing prospects to try to impress. Fast-rising goalkeeper Lo Siu-kei had a steady game between the sticks in the midweek loss against Kitchee, while new signing Stefan Pereira was dangerous up-front. BC Rangers might be the less fancied side against Hong Kong Pegasus but still cannot be discounted.
Kitchee and Eastern Long Lions are set for a Sapling Cup Group A top-of-the-table clash on Friday afternoon in Jockey Club HKFA Football Training Centre Pitch No. 2. The match will go underway at 4:00pm and will be played behind closed doors.
With the same points-total as Sapling Cup Group A pace-setter Eastern Long Lions, Kitchee only trails its arch-rival in the group-standing through an inferior head-to-head record. Friday afternoon’s clash serves as the perfect occasion for Kitchee to rectify the situation and a hungry Kitchee squad can be expected. Having won its past four Sapling Cup fixtures, Kitchee is undoubtedly one of the most in-form sides in the competition. Young studs such as Cheng Chin-lung and Sebastian Buddle both played a blinder in Kitchee’s midweek Sapling Cup victory against BC Rangers and might be called upon once again by head coach Blaž Slišković.
While Eastern Long Lions might be sitting atop of Sapling Cup Group A with thirteen points from six matches in the competition, the side is nevertheless occupying the top spot by the slimmest margin – holding off second place Kitchee through a superior head-to-head record. A win or a draw on Friday afternoon can help Eastern Long Lions to maintain its grip on the Group A summit and that should offer lots of tactical flexibility for head coach Lee Chi-kin. Midseason signing Lucas Da Silva opened his Eastern Long Lions scoring account by netting a well-taken double against Lee Man midweek and will relish the opportunity to add to his seasonal tally.
On Saturday afternoon, Best Union Yuen Long and Happy Valley will square off in Jockey Club HKFA Football Training Centre Pitch No. 2 for the lone Sapling Cup fixture of the day. The Group B battle is scheduled to start at 4:00pm and will be played behind closed doors.
Best Union Yuen Long’s Sapling Cup aspirations vanished on Wednesday afternoon by losing to Group B leader Kwoon Chung Southern. With only two games left remaining, being six points behind table-topping Kwoon Chung Southern and an inferior head-to-head record against the Hong Kong Island-side, Best Union Yuen Long’s Sapling Cup fate is virtually sealed. Therefore newly re-appointed head coach Kenneth Kwok will likely utilize the remaining Sapling Cup fixtures to fine-tune his troops and get them ready for premier league survival this season. Youngster Cheung ho-kwok made his professional debut midweek and earned rare reviews from Kwok. More from the local youngster can be expected on the weekend.
With eight points from six Sapling Cup group matches, Happy Valley has the same number of points as Best Union Yuen Long. In fact, Happy Valley’s fate in Sapling Cup is also identical to its opponent on Saturday afternoon. While Happy Valley might have looked extremely promising at one point during its previous Sapling Cup outing against Wofoo Tai Po, the young side then switched off suddenly by allowing three goals in the last ten minutes and had to settle for a disappointing 4:4 draw. Manu Gavilan bagged a hat-trick in the disheartening draw and looked extremely sharp, yet no one is quite sure what kind of Happy Valley side might show up on Saturday afternoon against Best Union Yuen Long.
On Sunday afternoon, Wofoo Tai Po will meet up with Kwoon Chung Southern in Jockey Club HKFA Football Training Centre Pitch No. 3 for another Sapling Cup Group B tilt. The match will start at 1:00pm and will be played behind closed doors.
Sitting firmly in the Group B basement, Wofoo Tai Po is left playing for pride in this season’s Sapling Cup. Yet discounting the New Territories side can be a major mistake, as the Wofoo Tai Po players demonstrated in the team’s previous Sapling Cup outing. Despite trailing Happy Valley by three goals late in the game, Wofoo Tai Po players dug deep and scored three times in the last ten minutes of the match – showcasing the team’s genuine heart and grit. Boosted by new-found confidence, an upset against group-leading Kwoon Chung Southern on Sunday might not be totally out of the cards.
As the leading team in Group B, a victory on Sunday afternoon will see Kwoon Chung Southern securing a berth in the Sapling Cup final. Despite scoring the least number of goals in Group B, Kwoon Chung Southern nevertheless boasts the stingiest defense in the entire competition – allowing a mere goal from six Sapling Cup outings this season. Hence it is no surprise to learn that Kwoon Chung Southern is also the last remaining undefeated side in Sapling Cup. Defense and timely scoring are the keys to Kwoon Chung Southern’s Sapling Cup success so far this season and more of the same cane be expected on Sunday afternoon.