Hong Kong correspondent Christopher KL Lau along with guest writer JRP Borthwick brings his regular round-up of all the very latest news, developments and other footballing points of interest from the SAR.…
Hong Kong Edge Out the Maldives – By JRP Borthwick
Following the 7:0 demolition of Bhutan at the same venue five days earlier in front of a 6,326-strong crowd, another strong attendance turned up to Mong Kok Stadium to greet Hong Kong’s latest obstacle in their path to the 2018 World Cup. 6,370 Hong Kong football fans were hoping for 3 more points to keep the SAR’s route to qualification on track.
The atmosphere was mixed with a recurrence of the booing of the March of the Volunteers national anthem by the HK crowd; the blend of nerves and anticipation of the match to come; and the pre-match minute’s silence, observed in honour of HK football legend Wu Kwok-hung, who died on Monday at the age of 66 after a battle with throat cancer.
The match started well for HK with some effective and cutting moves carved down both the right and left flanks by HK’s attacking line. After the stronger start for the SAR, more balance emerged and as a cooling breeze began to drift across the pitch 20 minutes into the match, a similar coolness appeared to take grip of both sets of players and it was not clear for which side the breakthrough would come. As it was, the sides traded blows, the one minute of added time came and went and the two sides headed into the break on 0:0.
The second half began well for HK and the deadlock was almost immediately broken in the first couple of minutes of the period with HK No.11, Godfred Karikari, put through on goal by Lam ka-wai. While the Maldives keeper managed to preserve the stalemate, his brave charge-down resulted in a lengthy injury break, which resulted in a keeper substitution for the Maldives.
Hong Kong, sensing an opportunity with the introduction of the new keeper moved up a gear and the crowd sensed a breakthrough. It came in the 63rd minute when No.7 Xu Deshuai found himself in space on the end of the box and he calmly slotted home an accurate shot in the face of an oncoming keeper.
Urged onwards by an expectant crowd HK poured forward in numbers as the ball was taken back quickly following the restart. A surging move by HK down the centre resulted in a foul and a yellow card for the Maldives’ No. 15 Ali. In the 68th minute, Lam Ka-wai stepped up to the ball and curled a shot around the wall and into the corner of the net as substitute keeper, Mohamed Imran, stood motionless, as much an observer to the fine free kick as those in the stands.
In the final minutes of the match, opportunities were created on both sides but the match ran its course to end in a 2:0 win and three vital points for Hong Kong. The next one should be interesting.
Hong Kong Smash Seven Past Bhutan in First World Cup Game
On June 12th, Hong Kong got off to the perfect start against Bhutan in their first World Cup match. Hong Kong were always expected to win but it was more of a matter of by how much. The national anthem was unfortunately marred by certain sections of the packed Mong Kok stadium crowd booing the duration of the song. The repercussions of this were vast in both Hong Kong and China as fans took to social media to air their views and opinions with the majority being angry for the latter. The fall out of the Chinese Football Associations posters and the HKFA’s response added to the tension in the crowd and this manifested in some of the booing.
Hong Kong dominated proceedings from the start but it took them a while to break the deadlock. McKee of Sun Pegasus had several golden opportunities to place the home team ahead but missed a relatively simple chance early on to fray Hong Kong’s nerves. The decisive goal was in the 19th minute when McKee latched onto a cross and headed the ball home from about five yards. The gates were open and the goals flowed in relentlessly.
Christian Annan and Lo Kwan Yee knocked in two more headers in the 23rd and 30th minutes respectfully while Ju Yingzhi slid home in the 42nd minute. The home side were 4-0 up in the first half and the Bhutan side were given a glimpse of future group games as they held off wave after wave of attack.
The second half did not see Hong Kong ease up and a penalty (due to handball) was slotted away by Lam Ka Wai in the 49th minute. Two more were slammed in by McKee and KariKari in the 57th and 67th minutes respectfully and the score line was beyond what anyone had anticipated.
Hong Kong would face a much sterner test in a few days time against the Maldives but for a few days, the Hong Kong team could dream of greater things if only for a short period of time.
Tough Draws for South China and Kitchee in AFC Cup Quarter-Finals
South China and Kitchee will have to work hard for their semi-final spots after the latest AFC Cup draw. Kitchee face the difficult task of taking on Kuwait SC who famously knocked out South China in the semi-final stages back in 2009. Kitchee will also be without their inspirational coach Molina who has left to go back to Spain.
South China meanwhile also have a tough task of taking on Johor Darul Ta’zim of Malaysia whom have some of the most passionate and fervent fans around and ironically, SCAA will now face their old coach, Mario Gomez who left Hong Kong only a few months ago to take up his new position Malaysia. With Hong Kong in the grip of football fever, the Hong Kong home legs should see relatively large crowds.
25 August 2015
Quarter-final 1 (1st Leg): Qadsia SC v Al Jaish
Quarter-final 2 (1st Leg): Johor Darul Ta’zim v South China
26 August 2015
Quarter-final 3 (1st Leg): Kuwait SC v Kitchee
Quarter-final 4 (1st Leg): FC Istiklol v Pahang FA
15 September 2015
Quarter-final 1 (2nd Leg): Al Jaish v Qadsia SC
Quarter-final 2 (2nd Leg): South China v Johor Darul Ta’zim
16 September 2015
Quarter-final 3 (2nd Leg): Kitchee v Kuwait SC
Quarter-final 4 (2nd Leg): Pahang FA v FC Istiklol
All pictures courtesy of Chris KL Lau, JRP Borthwick, Ryan Kam, Willio
Christopher KL Lau is a freelance writer and photographer. Follow him on Twitter.
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