BC Rangers’ AFC Champions League hopes were cruelly extinguished on Tuesday night after Haiphong FC struck late to cancel out Kanda Yumemi’s first-half wonder goal – before adding three extra-time goals.
The Hong Kong team, making their debut in the competition, looked set to survive a wave of late pressure until substitute Jean-Jacques Kilama bundled over visiting striker Yuri Mamute in the box.
Goalkeeper Leung Hing-kit saved Mamute’s kick but substitute Tuan Anh Nguyen lashed home the rebound.
Mamute, returning after missing his side’s past three games with a muscle strain, beat Hing-kit with a header – despite the keeper getting a hefty touch – after 108 minutes.
And the forward nodded home again with four minutes remaining after Bicou Bissainthe burst to the byline to cross. Mamute’s goals sandwiched a header into an empty net from Martin Lo, quick to react when the ball bounced up invitingly after Ho Minh Di’s 18-yard drive clattered the underside of the bar.
It had earlier appeared as though Rangers would spend the next week counting their blessings over Kanda’s summer change of heart.
The midfielder weighed up a close season transfer to Indonesia but ultimately decided he couldn’t drag himself away from the club.
And how close he was to getting his team into a play-off round contest with Incheon United next week, following a piece of genius four minutes before half-time.
Lam Ka-wai, sure in possession all night, wove across the fringe of the box, evading a flurry of snapping challenges, to slip a pass to Kanda on the left. The forward duly unleashed a crackerjack effort that sped and dipped to defeat the helpless Nguyen Dinh Trieu inside the goalkeeper’s left post.
The 4,148 fans inside Mong Kok Stadium included a healthy Vietnamese contingent, but those who influenced Kanda’s decision to stay greeted the goal with enough noise for 40,000.
Rangers had been high on endeavour and short on genuine openings until that point. Lam Hin-ting drew a fingertip stop from Dinh Trieu after Yakubu Nassam Ibrahim’s initial ninth-minute effort was blocked.
The home team’s intent was clear, nonetheless, when they lined up with five players strung across the back.
The 38-year-old Ka-wai was stationed in front of the defence, beside Lam Tin-hing, 15 years Ka-wai’s junior and shouldering most of the grunt work.
Rangers didn’t mind spoiling too, and were as slow restarting play as they were fast into the tackle.
Haiphong’s best chances generally stemmed from pinching possession and exploiting spaces left as a result.
Leung saved Nguyen Huu Son’s skidder at his near post and although the keeper was slower to get down to a shot from Mamute the touch was enough to divert the ball onto the post and behind.
Haiphong were oddly passive after the break, waiting until the 63rd-minute to test Leung, who was equal to a drive from Trieu Viet Hun.
Rangers coach Henry Vom Ca-nhum sent on centre-half Kilama to win a succession of headers. But fatigue was beginning to plague the hosts. Haiphong, at the midpoint of their domestic campaign, eventually came on strong.
The unmarked Huu Son planted a diving header wide and Leung employed a strong right hand to resist a firm Pham Trung Hieu attempt.
The home supporters loudly urged Leung to ‘save it’ when Kilama was penalised for bowling into the back of Mamute in the box. He did as asked, keeping out Mamute’s penalty with his legs, but Anh Nguyen was on hand to stun Rangers.
The scorer had been on the pitch only seven minutes, and he wasn’t done there, supplying the cross for Mamute to plant a dagger in Rangers’ hearts. Rangers were on their last legs and Lo and Mamute, again, took full advantage.
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