Thursday 1 October 2009

South China Secure Semi-Final Slot

Hong Kong’s South China are through to the semi-finals of the 2009 AFC Cup with a comprehensive 1-0 win in the second-leg of their quarter-final tie against Uzbekistan's Neftchi. In last night’s return leg at Hong Kong Stadium, the Hong Kong Division One Champions overturned their AFC Cup first-leg 5-4 deficit in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and ultimately won the tie by the away goals rule.

The all-important goal by Brazilian striker Leandro Silva came in the second minute of the first half. There were 4 yellow cards in total, and the referee team officiated the match intelligently and effectively (further details to follow).

South China (HKG) 1-0 Neftchi (UZB). Agg 5-5.

Caroliners edge into AFC Cup semis (SCMP; subscription required)
Chan Kin-wa and Agence France-Presse
Oct 01, 2009
South China moved a step closer to completing their AFC Cup mission after sneaking past Neftchi of Uzbekistan at Hong Kong Stadium last night.

A slender 1-0 victory was good enough to take them through to the semi-finals, thanks to the away goal rule after they banged in four goals in the first leg when they lost 5-4 to the Uzbekistanis two weeks ago.

Brazilian forward Leandro Silva scored the only goal in front of a 20,000 crowd, mostly in red shirts in support of the home team, after heading home a Leung Kin-pong's cross in the second minute. But the Caroliners, who have set their sights on reaching the final in order to represent Hong Kong in the AFC Champions League next year, also had goalkeeper Zhang Chunhui to thank.

Two excellent saves from the keeper in the second half, including a one-on-one situation against Neftchi striker Alisher Halikov in the 70th minute, kept their hopes alive. Zhang also punched away a free kick from Iqboljon Akramov before any Neftchi players could reach it from close range seven minutes later.

"I want to buy the goalkeeper a dinner," said South China coach Kim Pan-gon. "He made two important saves that has helped us through."

South China received bad news the night before the match when forward Tales Schutz was banned for three matches by the Asian Football Confederation which meant he was not available for the encounter.

Coach Kim said: "We played as a team and it proved tonight that other players could come in and do a good job in the absence of others. I don't think [the loss of Schutz] will affect us too much."

South China convenor Steven Lo Kit-sing thanked the 20,000 fans who braved the bad weather to support them, although the rain stopped just before the start of the match.

"I told the players before the start they could not afford losing the hearts of the fans," he said.

"And the players did not let me down and did not let the fans down. I know many of them are not South China fans but just came here to support Hong Kong football. And their presence means Hong Kong football still has a future."

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