The Legal League roared back into competitive action on the weekend with the six Division One games giving some early food for thought.
DBFC ran away with the title last year, winning it by an impressive 14 points but many felt that it was Wanchai Spartans who had the strongest team with their emphatic (league leading) goal difference of +46 backing up that suggestion. They therefore went into the new season as one of the front runners and they well and truly laid down their mark on a hapless Mes who could only muster 10 players for the first half. The season was only 9 seconds old for Spartans when they took the lead at the HKFA pitches at Tseung Kwan O and never looked back as they smashed a further 7 goals to ensure newly promoted Mes endured a torrid start upon their return to Division 1.
Champions DBFC were looking to get off to a good start in defending their title against against Goodfellas but came unstuck in the last 20 losing 3-1. It was Goodfellas who took the lead in the first half when Mathieu Demange got his name on the scoresheet but DBFC levelled things up early in the second via Gabriel Brettell. Not much in the game from then on with both teams cancelling each other out so it came down to some quick thinking to settle the match via a quickly taken free kick then was headed in by Rob Davis. A late defensive mix up added some gloss to the scoreline for Goodfellas.
Joining Spartans and Goodfellas on three points is Forward who posted a 3-1 victory over Soho Spartans. Forward started the match the stronger and took the lead after 20 minutes, this however spurred on Soho’s who levelled 10 minutes later via Rudi Willemse. After the break however it was Forward who once again gained momentum by getting their noses in front only for Soho’s to come back into it and nearly levelled things again in deep into the second half only for the ball to come crashing off the goalframe. Forward notched a third at the death to get their campaign off to a winning start.
Tropics and J-Leaguers shared 6 goals at Happy Valley with both teams finding themselves behind in game of two halves. Two fantastic strikes from Shunsuke Nakamura either side of a Kyle Wagner leveller saw the Japanese leading 2-1 before Wagner also made it a brace for himself. Tropics were playing the better football and deservedly took the lead 5 minutes before half time but the second half was a different story as Tropics struggled to take that momentum into the second half and while no real clear but chances fell the Japanese’s way they were not troubled at the back. The scores were levelled 15 minutes from the end.
The late night game on Saturday saw Revolution and Corinthians, without their star player (Manjeet Brar), play out a “physical game” with “not too much quality” so a share of the spoils seems fair. Reuben Cramer grabbed two for Corinthians with Tim Rechter and Jamie Kelly notching for newly promoted Revolution who felt hard done by a ref who “was on a different planet”.
The first game of the season was played on the Friday night as USRC entertained HK Scottish Stags to their Kings Park domicile. Availability was causing USRC manager Stephen Cairns headaches leading up to the match but he managed to get a bare 11 together and his boys gave a good account of themselves taking a point back to their clubhouse. Starting the game on the front foot USRC had the better of the play, but as happens all too often in football, it was Stags who scored and excellent counter attack goal before USRC levelled before the half time break. The second half was, for large parts, dominated by Stags as the legs on the USRC players began to tire but they stuck to their game plan and dug in for a point.
Division 2 was back with a bang over the weekend, welcoming 2 new teams into the fold for their Legal League bows. Last year saw goals a-plenty week in week out and it seems everyone was champing at the bit to maintain the excitement with 53 goals scored over the 9 fixtures and interestingly no draws.
Arguably the biggest game of the week was between last years’ Division 3 winners Samurai Blue and a Bants team returning to Div 2 after one ill-fated season in the top flight. Both sides will fancy their chances of pushing for the top of the table this campaign but it was Samurai who put a clear marker down, dismantling their opponents 6-1. Bants actually went in front early on but Sam Blue hit back in style, led by a Younes Aboubker hat-trick and strikes from Yang Zhang George, Ahmed Jemli and Ravi Sukhwani. An emphatic win in the opening fixture will further boost confidence for a team that has come such a long way over the last few years whilst the rest of the league must take notice.
San Pells missed out on promotion by goal difference last year, finishing third in Division 2. They will be looking to go at least one better this time round and started positively with a hard-earned 2-1 victory over OSM. In a combative and tight game, Reid Bailey and Simon Roberts did enough to nick it despite a wonder goal from OSM’s Jonny White who lashed home a half-way line volley. Both sides stating this could easily be a draw meaning OSM may feel a little hard done to but its early days and they may well get a chance for revenge later in the season.
New boys Irish Harps made some sweet music on their Legal League debut, announcing themselves with style and swagger as they blasted Shooters 8-2. The Gaelic boys already have a reputation for being fit, strong and physical as this was evident by a fine second half display in which they scored 5 times. David Clinton (2), Lee McQuade (2), Cian McNamara, Chris Corcoran, Ian Hutchison and Liam Grant shared the goals with Matsumoto and Takeda on target for the defeated Japanese. With all respect to Shooters, tougher tests will come for the Irish but nonetheless an emphatic display to open the season.
Krauts are another side expected to be right in the mix and they also opened with a win, defeating MBFC 6-3 in another goal-fest. MBFC paid the price for starting slowly as they were 3-0 down after 15 minutes but despite having the mere 11 can at least take heart from their second half display where they showed some fight. Krauts were always too strong though and kept their opponents at arms-length to wrap up the win. 3 for Simon (not so) Ranke, 2 for Patrick Bez and 1 for honorary German Hin Hey Chung for Krauts. MBFC scorers were Wang Weizhi, Liu Shengduo and Huang Haole.
A new season but some things don’t change including the length of Dragon Valleys match reports as their 4-0 win over Legal Head was covered in such articulate detail that I simply could not do it justice. Max Remington was their leading man last season and was straight back amongst the goals as he bagged 2; the first a close range finish from a whipped cross and the second an opportunistic tap in after an error from the Head keeper. Paul Martin managed to get his name in to his own epic report as he got on the end of a chipped through ball to lift it home. The fourth goal was scored by Jordan Jackson who found the net with a Jofra Archer style bouncer, slamming the ball in to the ground at the near post.
Vikings got the better of Wolves with a 3-0 success in what was an eventful game for Soren Kargo after he scored and was later sent off for 2 yellows. Anton Valentiner Jacobsen was also on target for the Danes who controlled this one throughout and were not flattered by the end result. Goalkeeper Martin Raffli managed to rack up 2 assists in addition to his clean sheet meaning if there was such a thing as LL Fantasy Football then this guy has completed it.
Shui Wei also started by taking maximum points as they look to put behind them the disappointment of missing out on the Division 3 title last time. Niko Nitti got all 4 goals against BOCs to put him top of the early golden boot standings. Greg Taw and Chi Mann managed to give the scoreline a bit of respectability but much like MBFC, the game was gone early on for BOC after falling 3-0 behind within 20 minutes. Credit for a spirited attempt at a fight-back though after a few tactical tweaks had settled them down.
On to Monday and it was the turn of another new side, HK Scottish Eagles to show how high they can fly. Soar they did as they breezed past KCC Royals 5-1. Elliott Suett proved he’s no pudding as he grabbed 3 with Brent Sanson getting the other 2 in a comprehensive win. Barry ‘Grandad’ Brown got the only consolation for Royals who will hope for better evenings ahead.
KCC Cavs were pushed all the way by Young Guns, eventually winning out 3-2 in the final fixture of the week. In a ding-dong battle, Cavs had established a 2 goal lead through Sam Trayford and Gauravdeep Pansotra before Justin Wong and Kit Tsui managed to level things up. With time running out and a draw looking likely, up stepped Gabriel Ho to win it for Cavs with a wonderful free-kick.
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