Hong Kong: Kitchee and Hanoi FC kick off the first of the 2017 AFC Champions League Preliminary Stage 2 fixtures in Hong Kong on Wednesday, with the winners travelling to play Ulsan Hyundai in the Play-Off Stage next month.
Date: January 25, 2017
Kickoff time: 8pm HKT, 12pm GMT
Venue: Hong Kong Stadium, Hong Kong
Referee: Jumpei Iida (Japan)
Kitchee finished as runners-up in the second edition of the Hong Kong Premier League, just a point behind 2015-16 champions Eastern SC. Along with South China, the three clubs monopolised the top positions in the table, but it was record-breaking coach Chan Yuen-ting and Eastern that came out on top. Nevertheless, last year did see more silverware added to the Kitchee trophy cabinet as they lifted their fifth Hong Kong League Cup and claimed the Hong Kong Season Play-off title for a second time. Naturalised Hong Kong international striker Alex Akande was Kitchee’s leading scorer with seven league goals, though he was three behind Eastern’s Giovane and Admir Adrovic of Hong Kong Pegasus in the race for Top Scorer.
Hanoi FC claimed the 2016 V.League title by the narrowest of margins as they lifted their third league championship by virtue of a two-goal superior goal difference. Hai Phong were the unfortunate runners-up, with defending champions Becamex Binh Duong enduring a dismal season to finish tenth. Nigeria-born striker Hoang Vu Samson finished as top scorer for Hanoi on 15 league goals with Argentine forward Gonzalo Marronkle netting 11 times as the capital city club ended a spell of two consecutive runners-up finishes and return to the AFC Champions League Preliminary Stage 2 for a fourth time. Hanoi also finished runners-up in the 2016 Vietnamese Cup, losing to Than Quang Ninh, while their 2016 AFC Champions League campaign ended at the Play-Off Stage with a 3-0 defeat to Pohang Steelers.
Huang Yang, Kitchee
Since joining the club for the 2011-12 season, Hong Kong midfielder Huang Yang has consistently been among the first names on the team sheet for Kitchee, chalking up more minutes played than any other Kitchee outfielder over the last six seasons. A graduate from Shanghai Shenhua’s youth academy, the 33-year-old former Hong Kong Footballer of the Year may not be much of a goal-threat due to his role as a defensive midfielder, but his work-rate and consistency for Kitchee are a major force behind the club’s success. Huang is complimented by captain Lo Kwan-yee, another ever-present at club-level and for the Hong Kong representative side, while Kitchee’s signing of vastly experienced former Zenit St Petersburg and Korea Republic defender Kim Dong-jin could be an inspired addition.
Hoang Vu Samson, Hanoi FC
Two-time V.League top scorer Hoang Vu Samson’s (pictured above, left) record in front of goal makes him the obvious threat to Kitchee on Wednesday. The Nigeria-born striker scored nearly a goal per game in his spells with Than Quang Ninh and Dong Thap, with his prolific form earning him a move to Atletico Madrid in 2011. Although the spell in Spain ended abruptly, with a return to Vietnam due to contractual disagreements with Dong Thap, the African has continued where he left off in the V.League and has already netted four goals in his first four appearances of the 2017 season. Kitchee will know Hoang Vu Samson’s strike partner Gonzalo Marronkle only too well as it was the Argentine who scored the only goal in last year’s AFC Champions League Preliminary Stage 2 clash between the two sides. Young Vietnamese midfielder Nguyen Quang Hai, 19, has also started the new season well having scored three goals in four games
Head to Head Record
02/02/16 Hanoi FC 1-0 Kitchee