Kitchee successfully defend Senior Shield title in thrilling final

Kitchee Defend Senior Shield Title in Dramatic Final

For the second year in a row, and the fourth in six finals, Kitchee won the Senior Shield once again on 11 Feb 2024 in front of 4570 people at Mong Kok Stadium. But it was far from a straightforward victory.

A dramatic match saw fifteen yellow cards, three reds, a retaken penalty for each side, and a late winner. A much better advertisement for Hong Kong football than the Inter Miami farce of last week.

Kitchee welcomed back Paulo Cesar in goal for the first time since the end of November, along with six Asian Cup players returning for their first Kitchee games in months. Shinichi Chan missed out through injury, and there was no space in the squad for recent signing Temirov or the expensive Kim Shin-wook. Eastern had Asian Cup captains Yapp Hung-fai and Kozubayev returning, as well as Hong Kong youngsters Sun Ming-him and Jesse Yu Joy-yin. Eastern manager Losada spent ten years at Kitchee as a player and in the backroom team, before switching to the Mong Kok rivals.

After a lion dance to commemorate Chinese New Year, the nearly 4,500 fans in attendance were treated to a spectacular cup final.

Kitchee legend Fernando landed awkwardly on his shoulder early on, and despite his attempts to soldier on, he left the field just after Eastern had a goal rightly ruled out for offside in the 19th minute. Eastern arguably had the better chances in the first half, with the pace and energy of Noah Baffoe causing problems for Kitchee’s defence, especially Paulo, whose first half distribution was shaky. The best chance of the half fell to Eastern’s Leung Kwun-chung, whose long shot was tipped onto and over the bar by Paulo.

Both goalkeepers were regularly called into action in the second half, with Paulo being the busier of the two. Helio’s last-ditch tackle denied Baffoe a great goal-scoring opportunity. The Kitchee captain was then shown a second yellow card with 15 minutes to go, for dissent. This sparked the game into life, and the drama began.

Roberto’s high foot gave Eastern a penalty; Gondra stepped up, Paulo saved, and Kozubayev fired home the rebound. However, an intervention from VAR ruled Paulo was off his line; Leung Kwun-chung took over penalty duties and smashed it home. 1-0 Eastern with five minutes plus added time remaining.

As stoppage time began, Mingazow’s shot hit the hand of Kozubayev, and VAR gave Kitchee a penalty, and Kozubayev a second yellow card. With Mikael having been subbed, Charlie Scott stepped up. In a bizarre repeat of Eastern’s penalty, the initial effort was saved, the rebound was scored, and VAR ruled that a retake was required, seemingly as Poon Pui-hin had encroached the area. Scott held his nerve to score the second time around, and it was 1-1 going into extra time, with both sides down to ten men.

Extra time continued to be cagey, as both sides sought a winner, without wanting to leave their defenses exposed. Halfway through, goalscorer Scott was removed for Andy Russell, and within a minute of the experienced center back coming on, he had been taken out by Noah Baffoe. The striker was initially given a second yellow card, but VAR upgraded this to a straight red. Ten against nine with 15 minutes to go, and Eastern’s biggest attacking threat was now off the pitch.

With 90 seconds remaining, Cleiton backheeled the ball into the path of Mingazow, cutting in from the left to curl a low right-footed effort into the bottom corner. The Turkmen international ran over towards the Kitchee fans as Eastern’s players dropped to the ground. There was time for one last Eastern effort from a corner, but Kitchee held on to defend their title.

Who needs Inter Miami when you have passionate fan bases, cheap tickets, and dramatic finals?

In conclusion, the recent Senior Shield final between Kitchee and Eastern was a rollercoaster of emotions, with numerous twists and turns that kept the fans on the edge of their seats. Kitchee’s resilience and determination to defend their title in such a thrilling manner showcased the spirit of Hong Kong football. Let’s hope for more exciting matches like this in the future.

 

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