Hong Kong champions Kitchee have taken control of Group F in the AFC Cup after they beat Philippines outfit Kaya 1-0 at the Rizal Memorial Stadium on Tuesday.
With the match seemingly destined to finish goalless, teenage striker Hirokane Harima scored the only goal of the game in the 86th minute to hand Kitchee all three points.
Following a corner kick from the right of the goal taken by Lam Ka-wai, Kaya goalkeeper Matt Acton completely misjudged the flight of the ball, which allowed an unmarked Kitchee player at the back post to play it back towards goal, via a ricochet off the left-hand upright.
The ball then landed at the feet of the 18-year-old Harima, who made no mistake with the finish from close range, having been substituted on moments earlier.
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The result moves Kitchee to the top of the standings in the group, with 10 points from five games, one ahead of their opponent on the day.
Balestier Khalsa and New Radiant, who play each other later on Tuesday, are on four and two points respectively, having played one match fewer than the two pace-setters in Group F.
Kitchee were on the back foot for large parts of the match, which had to be stopped for a water break every 15 minutes due to the hot and humid conditions in Manila.
The first real chance of the match fell to Kitchee’s Rufino Segovia, who was found in space on the left flank but could only blast his shot into the side netting.
The Spanish striker seemingly didn’t bring his shooting boots to the Philippine capital, since he missed another guilt-edged chance when he was found unmarked by Jordi Tarres, but could only head over the crossbar.
After the break, OJ Porteria looked destined to score when he won the ball inside the Kitchee penalty box and fired a snap-shot, but he was denied by goalkeeper Wang Zhenpeng, who kept the Hong Kong outfit in the tie with a fine save on the hour mark
By this point, it was all Kaya and in the 71st minute, Miguel Tanton looked set to score but after some scrambling by the Kitchee defense, led by Fernando Recio, the chance came to naught.
That, though, was as good as it got for the hosts, as Hirokane, who had been substituted on in place of Lo Kwan Yee in the 83rd minute, scored the winner with his first touch of the game.