Hong Kong correspondent Christopher KL Lau brings his regular round-up of all the very latest news, developments and other footballing points of interest from the SAR.
Hong Kong’s spirited World Cup qualifying run has come to an end with a 2-0 away defeat against Qatar in Doha. After a series of positive results and two nil all draws with China, Hong Kong were left with the rare opportunity to progress to the final Asian qualifying round as one of the better second place teams; an away win or at least a draw was the bare minimum with the hope of China doing worse in their remaining matches.
Qatar have proven to be formidable opponents in the group and their tactical astuteness and slick passing game proved too much for Hong Kong who struggled to maintain possession and only mustered one real chance on goal.
The ultra defensive Hong Kong side were undone by the surging runs up the wings by the full backs and one such moment left the door open for Qatar’s opener in the 20th minute when Qatar captain Hasan Al-Haydos fired in from the edge of the area after the ball was pulled back from the byline. From there, Hong Kong could only chase the game and so left more gaps and space to be exploited. The game was put out of all doubt in the 86th minute when Sebastian Soria poked him a lucky side footed shot and from there, Hong Kong’s chances of even getting a draw were gone as the classy Qatar side kept the ball with their tidy passing and instinctive off the ball movement.
Qatar will now move to the final Asian World Cup qualifying round and complete their current campaign with an away game in China who will seek to qualify as one of the better second place runner ups. After a qualifying run which has seen levels of public interest in the national team reach unprecedented levels, Hong Kong can now look forward to the newly expanded Asian Cup where they do stand a good chance of qualifying for the final stages.
Eastern Still Top Hong Kong Premier League
With only a few rounds left to go, Eastern still lead the table with 32 points with a newly improved Kitchee on 28 points with all still to play for. In the battle for the bottom, Wong Tai Sin, Yuen Long and Rangers were propping up the league with 10, 9 and 7 points respectfully.
South China and Kitchee Enduring a Torrid Time in AFC Cup
Hong Kong giants South China, so long a leading light for Hong Kong in continental competition, have collapsed to three defeats out of three against teams they would have easily beaten in the past but a marked slump in form has seen poor displays yielding no positives. Disappointing results against Yangon United (MYA), Mohun Bagan (Ind) and Maziya Sports and Recreation of the Maldives have seen South China rooted to the bottom of Group G. An outcome which has seen SCAA manager Casemiro Mior resign from his position to be replaced by Ricardo Rambo.
Kitchee have faired slightly better in Group F with one win, a draw and a defeat with leaves them with a chance of progression but only if their results improve. Overall, the AFC cup has been a disappointing campaign for both Hong Kong sides.
Juan Belencoso – Ex Kitchee Striker Joins Persib Bandung of Indonesia
Juan Belencoso, the former Kitchee striker, famed for his eleven goal haul in the AFC Cup 2014 and for being one of the three nominees for the Asian Football Association Foreign Player of the year award 2015, has finally left Hong Kong after a storied career here. Belencoso has moved to Indonesia and joined Persib Bandung and scored his first goal for Persib recently.
Photos from HKFA
Christopher KL Lau is a freelance writer and photographer – follow him on twitter.com/Chris_KL_Lau