Kitchee fightback leaves Warriors reeling

Warriors FC's miserable season continued as they threw away a two-goal lead to lose 4-2 to Kitchee in the Tuesday's AFC Cup Group E clash at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

Warriors FC vs Kitchee: Lo Kwan Yee
Gabriel Tan

By Gabriel Tan

Reporting from the Jalan Besar Stadium

After a 2-2 draw and 6-1 defeat in the Great Eastern-YEO's S.League to Woodlands Wellington and Tanjong Pagar United respectively, as well as a 3-1 loss to Semen Padang in their AFC Cup opener last week, the Warriors looked set to pick up their first win in 2013 after claiming a 2-0 lead at the break thanks to goals from Tatsuro Inui and Erwan Gunawan.

However, Kitchee hit back in a blistering 17-minute spell at the start of the second half to overturn the deficit and lead 3-2, thanks to a brace from Jordi Tarres and Lo Kwan Yee's close-range header, before they wrapped up the victory in the 76th minute when Cheng Siu Wai volleyed home a fourth.

The result leaves Kitchee top of the group with a maximum of six points from two matches, after their 3-0 win over India's Churchill Brothers, while the Singaporean side's hopes of making the knockout round already look all but over.

Yet it could have been so different for the Warriors had they been capable of holding on to a winning position.

Despite the Hong Kong outfit dominating the possession stakes early on, it was the hosts who took the lead in the 24th minute when Inui opened the scoring with a sublime freekick, sending the ball around the wall and into the bottom corner after he had been felled by Gao Wen on the edge of the box.

And just five minutes later, their lead was doubled when hesitant defending from Cheung Kin Fung after a diagonal ball by Inui saw him give away the ball to Erwan, who raced through and poked the ball through the legs on the onrushing Wang Zhenpeng.

Stunned at finding themselves two down after just half an hour, Kitchee immediately pushed forward in search of a goal of their own and Hassan Sunny did well to deny them in the 35th minute when he raced out to block Jordi's one-on-one effort, after the striker was picked out inside the box by a lovely flick from Pablo Counago.

Four minutes later, Hassan was called into action again when he punched away a blistering freekick from Cheung, but there was little he could do a minute before the break when Chan Man Fai broke free and unleashed a ferocious shot towards goal, although his woodwork came to Warriors' rescue on that occasion.

But a minute into the second half, the visitors pulled one back after a right-wing cross was headed down by Counago straight into the path of Jordi, who lashed home from eight yards out.

Just six minutes later, parity was restored as Kitchee's Spanish strike pairing linked up to perfection once more; Counago receiving the ball from Chu Siu Kei and sending a lovely reverse pass to Jordi, who drove the ball past Hassan with aplomb.

Now firmly in the ascendancy, the Hong Kong treble champions looked increasingly likely to go on and win the tie and two minutes after the hour mark, they took the lead after another sweeping attack saw Cheung burst down the left and float a pinpoint cross to Lo, who met it at the far post and sent an emphatic header into the back of the net.

Having seen their comfortable lead vanish before their very eyes, the Warriors started to show more urgency in the attacking third but they struggled to break down the resilient opposition defence. Mislav Karoglan came closest to carving out a chance for them in the 68th minute when he sent a sweeping ball out right in search of Erwan, but Cheung weighed in with a vital interception to prevent the Singapore international from racing through.

Eight minutes later, the contest was ended when substitute Cheng added a fourth for Kitchee - meeting a right-wing cross by Lam with a cracking volley that had Hassan beaten all ends up; the goalkeeper again left exposed by his defence.

Although a much-needed victory was now out of their reach, the Warriors could have given their fans something to cheer about five minutes from time when Karoglan broke free inside the area, but - from a tight angle - he could only lash a shot into the sidenetting.

And as referee Minoru Toju blew the final whistle, the visitors were left celebrating as they moved one step closer to repeating last year's feat of reaching the Round of 16, while their opponents now need a minor miracle if they are to do just that.

Warriors FC: Hassan Sunny, Abdil Qaiyyim, Daniel Bennett, Marin Vidosevic, Syaiful Iskandar, Erwan Gunawan (Prakash Manikam 76'), Shi Jiayi, Shukor Zailan (Matthew Abraham 85'), Tatsuro Inui, Sufian Anuar, Mislav Karoglan.

Kitchee: Wang Zhenpeng, Lo Kwan Yee, Nando, Zesh Rehman, Cheung Kin Fung (Tsang Chi Hau 78'), Gao Wen, Chu Siu Kei, Chan Man Fai (Lam Ka Wai 69'), Lo Chi Kwan (Cheng Siu Wai 59'), Jordi Tarres, Pablo Counago.

Attendance: 1,151

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