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Thursday, April 3, 2008

Kedah sink South China

HONG KONG - South China's hopes of progressing to the knockout stages of the AFC Cup were dealt a severe blow on Wednesday as they were beaten 3-1 at home to Malaysian Super League champions Kedah.

Baddrol Bakhtiar put the visitors ahead in the 30th minute before Cris equalised just before the hour mark, but Marlon James restored Kedah's lead in the 65th minute and substitute Samransak Kram made the points safe with five minutes remaining.

The result leaves South China with just one point from three games in Group D while Kedah have six.

Both sides are able to boast strikers that are prolific in their respective domestic leagues with South China's Detinho on 16 so far while Kedah's James has weighed in with an impressive 21 goals.

And it was the latter who had a hand in the first opportunity of the game when in the seventh minute he was fouled just outside the box and Nelson San Martin curled the resulting free-kick round the wall that Zhang Chunhui did well to punch to safety.

Three minutes later and the hosts had a chance of their own to open the scoring when the Kedah defence failed to clear and the ball fell kindly for skipper Man Pei Tak who was free on the edge of the area but contrived to send his shot wide of the post.

However, it was the visitors who took the lead on the half hour mark when James picked up the ball down the left flank, brushed off the attention of two defenders to cut inside the box and his ball across goal eventually fell for the unmarked Bakhtiar to lash home from close-range.

Six minutes later South China had a golden opportunity to draw level when Tales Shutz sent a dangerous ball across the face of goal but Detinho's outstretched boot was unable to make the crucial connection.

And seconds before the break Yip Chi Ho broke free down the left and drilled an effort on goal that Elias could only push back into the danger zone and Shutz's follow-up was cleared off the line.

South China came out strong in the second half but were struggling to produce anything telling in the final third with Shutz twice driving wide when in a promising position.

But their pressure eventually told as South China drew level just before the hour mark when Brazilian defender Cris headed home from a corner.

However, the hosts' joy was short-lived when Kedah restored their lead in the 65th minute.

A mistake from Deng Jinghwang allowed San Martin to pick up the ball down the right flank and the midfielder made his way to the by-line before whipping a low cross into the box and James stabbed home from close range.

Substitute Kram wasted an opportunity to add a third with 12 minutes remaining when he was put through on goal but contrived to send his shot just wide of the post.

However, Kram was not to be denied in the 85th minute when he latched onto a cross in the box before lashing home from close range.

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