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Hong Kong Round Up: Argentina gatecrash FA centenary party

Hong Kong correspondent Christopher KL Lau brings a regular round-up of latest news and developments and other footballing points of interest from the SAR.

Star-studded Argentina too strong for Hong Kong

With an overwhelming display of technical and passing superiority, Argentina well and truly crashed the Hong Kong Football Association’s 100th year anniversary celebrations with a crushing and comprehensive 7-0 win. With a whole host of global superstars in their roster, a win was never in doubt but the question of how long Hong Kong could hold out and not concede was something on everyone’s lips.Argentina’s squad was bursting to the seams with superstar quality and the question remained of who would start the match. Anticipation gave way to anger as fans were left disappointed to see that none of the global names such as Messi, Di Maria, and Aguero were to start with the most familiar face to some fans being Higuain who played with relentless drive and precision over the course of the ninety minutes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xr2Fjx9SnbE

The stadium was disappointingly at half capacity with the official audience total being just over 20,000. Even the most ardent of local fans opted to watch the game on live TV due to the cost of the tickets. The fans inside did enough to generate a memorable atmosphere with the majority of the noise emanating from the famous North and South stands which were filled to capacity. Fans had travelled far and wide from across the Asia Pacific to catch a glimpse of their heroes and chanted / demanded to see Messi on the field; they eventually got their wish in the second half.

Hong Kong defended resolutely in the first half and keeper Yapp Hung-Fai made some fine saves  while the Hong Kong defense stood firm and disciplined. Argentina dominated possession and it took a poor clearance after another fine save from Yapp to open the flood gates in the 19th minute when Banega slotted home. Higuain played the game with the intensity of a world cup match and his precise bullet header in the 42nd minute made it 2-0. In the 44th minute, Gaitan drilled home another goal to make the game comfortable and definitely out of reach for the Hong Kong team. The task at hand for Hong Kong was to keep the scoreline respectable and give some joy to the home fans by scoring.

The Argentina bench settles in - Picture by JRP Borthwick

The Argentina bench settles in – Picture by JRP Borthwick

The fans demanded Messi and the chants of “We want Messi” reverberated around the stands and when he began to warm up, the entire stadium’s attention shifted to his warm up area in-front of the south stand. The south stand was awash with smart phones and cameras as everyone took to filming and making videos of the man himself.

Argentina furthered their lead in the 54th minute when nice interplay with Banega and Gaitan presented an easy chance for Higuain who finished with cool precision. The waiting and the anticipation ended in the 60th minute when Messi came onto the field to a huge ovation and whom promptly went onto add the 5th in the 66th minute. Nicholas Gaitan slide home in the 72nd minute after Messi penetrated through to the byline and pulled the ball back. The score was now 6-0.

Di Maria was soon introduced and his pace created several half chances as he tore down the wing. The last goal of the night went to Messi who picked up the ball deep on the right wing and then accelerated past several defenders to slot home the seventh of the night. Hong Kong were simply no match the quick passing game that the Argentines possessed. The home team had two clear chances to get on the score sheet in the second half but poor finishing saw these chances wasted much to the dismay of the home crowd.

Messi and Zabaleta celebrate another goal - Picture by WOL Borthwick

Messi and Zabaleta celebrate another goal – Picture by WOL Borthwick

Hong Kong were hosting a party and Argentina crashed it in all senses of the word. The fans in the stadium and the watching public at home wanted to see some of the greatest players in the world; they got what they desired if only for a short period of time. A special experience and occasion for all involved in many ways but there was an underlying feeling that it could have been even greater.

Hong Kong record comfortable win over Singapore

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Prior to taking on the world cup runners up, Hong Kong faced their fierce rivals Singapore last Friday (October 10th) at Mong Kok stadium. Hong Kong rested a majority of their first team in anticipation for the national team’s mouth watering fixture against Argentina.

A confident and Hong Kong team dominated the majority of the game and ran out comfortable 2-1 winners. Singapore battled hard and the game was definitely a feisty affair with both sides needlessly conceding unnecessary fouls. Hong Kong took the lead early on in the game and from there on never looked like giving up the game; Xu Deshuai fired home from close range in the 7th minute to give Hong Kong an one goal advantage. Both sides had half chances though the game was out of reach of the Singaporeans in the 52nd minute when Ju Yingzhi ran onto a pinpoint and incisive pass from Xu Deshuai to quickly round the keeper and slot the ball home. Singapore got their only goal when Shahril Ishak slotted home a penalty in injury time and the game ended 2-1. A few days later, Hong Kong would face a different calibre of opponent.

All pictures courtesy of Chris KL Lau, JRP Borthwick and WOL Borthwick  – Follow Chris Lau on https://twitter.com/Chris_KL_Lau

Christopher KL Lau was born in England and grew up in both England and Hong Kong, and has a background in media, education and non-profits. He also is a freelance writer / photographer and has written for a number of magazines, websites and newspapers around the world on many subjects ranging from the arts to travel. Chris is passionate about sports and its place in society and is keen to promote both Hong Kong and Chinese football to a wider audience.

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