Lee Hong-lim, who turns 33 next week, turned back the clock to help Eastern snatch the HKJC Community Cup after defeating Kitchee 3-1 at Mong Kok Stadium on Friday.
The former Hong Kong international showed he still had that old spark with two assists that gave his team a 2-1 lead before second half substitute Jaimes McKee sealed victory with a spectacular right footer in stoppage time in front of a strong 4,400 crowd.
It was Eastern’s first win over Kitchee in 18 months as last season’s Premier League champions celebrated on a sunny afternoon.
“He was definitely man of the match,” said Eastern female coach Chan Yuen-ting. “He proved he can contribute to the team regardless of his age. All you need is to maintain good form. In fact, he is very sharp on the pitch today and always made the right decisions in his passes.”
Winger Lee said he never thought his age would hinder him on the pitch.
“I am not that old, am I?” he joked. “You must be well prepared so that you can take opportunities when they come.
“In fact, I worked 50 per cent harder than other people during the summer and all the hard work and effort have paid off. This is a convincing victory as we haven’t defeated Kitchee for a long time and hopefully we can go all the way and win more trophies for the season.”
Lee’s speedy runs down the left flank was a menace to Kitchee’s defence. On 19 minutes, he made a strong charge down the left before crossing for the unmarked Michel Lugo to power home from close range after new signing Manuel Rodriguez caught two Kitchee defenders off guard in the middle.
Rodriguez also got on the scoresheet after Kitchee defender Pau Bosch headed home the equaliser from a corner kick early in the second half. Once again, Lee made a clever run down the middle before laying the ball to an unmarked Rodriguez, who only had the goalkeeper to beat.
Coach Chan said the win would boost Eastern’s confidence for the season after the club endured a difficult period in the close season.
“The club was hit by a lot of negative news at the end of the season and we needed a convincing win to instil confidence back on the team, for the players, the club and for our fans,” said the coach. “Kitchee might have not fielded all their best players in the first half, but it didn’t matter in the end.
“Rodriguez’s arrival at the club is boost for us, especially upfront and more importantly we haven’t seen the best of him yet. We hope he can improve his form as soon as possible and blend in well with the rest of the team so that we can strengthen our fire power.”
Eastern collected HK$250,000 prize money from sponsor Jockey Club and club director Peter Leung Shou-chi said they would donate HK$100,000 of their winnings to Pok Oi Hospital while the remaining sum will be shared by players and coaching staff. Pok Oi also received HK$100,000 from the sponsor on top of Eastern’s donation.