Hong Kong have continued their preparations for November’s EAFF Cup (East Asian Football Federation) second round qualifiers against Guam, Chinese Taipei and North Korea with a comprehensive 2-0 friendly win over a lacklustre Singapore at Mong Kok stadium.
The caretaker manager of Singapore is V. Sundramoorthy, the former Tampines Rovers and Lions XII manager, has now seen Singapore not win a game in the past five outings which includes defeats to Cambodia and Bahrain respectfully. The Singapore team are very experienced with players such Mohammad Shahril Bin Ishak (who plays for Malaysian Super League champions Johor Darul Ta’zim) and Daniel Bennett who have both played over 120 times for Singapore. This squad of experienced players have been joined by new editions Shawal Anuar of Geyland United and Irfan Fandi of Home United, so it is a finely balanced team which needs to find their way soon. Singapore will need to improve drastically before taking part in November’s ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup.
The early stages of the game saw both sides scoping out the opposition with little to no chances but many gritty challenges made by both sides. The first incisive attack was made by Godfrey Karikari who accelerated down the wings and cut into the Singapore box but to no avail. Karikari continued terrorising the Singapore defence in the 19th minute with yet another dangerous run and then on the 20th minute he released a decent shot which was saved by the Singapore keeper Iowan Mahbud. The heartbeat of the Hong Kong midfield, Lam Ka Wai also had a chance to score on the 27th minute as did Alexander Akande on 32nd minute when a Singaporean defensive error allowed Akande a split second chance which he failed to convert.
Akande was soon the score sheet when he skilfully controlled a ball through two defenders and then cooly placed the ball past the oncoming keeper. Hong Kong were up and deservedly so. Singapore barely threatened and their passing game was not very fluid. Hong Kong could have furthered their lead in the 60th minute when Hong Kong had a clear break but Alessandro Ferreira failed to find Akande with an accurate pass. Hong Kong furthered their lead in 70th minute when a long ball was headed by Jaimes Mckee down to Akande who laid it off to Yang Huang who hit a low drive past Mahmud into the corner of the goal.
Hong Kong were in charge of the game and had 58 percent of the possession compared to Singapore 42 percent ball possession. Singapore upped their tempo as the clock ran down and Yapp was forced into a fine save on the 90th minute but it was too little too late and Singapore’s underwhelming performance was summed up when one of their full backs missed the chance to score from point blank range in injury time.
To be fair, Singapore did have their chances and had more shots on and off target (12 attempts) then Hong Kong and both sides managed to both get four shots on target each though Hong Kong proved to be more lethal and accurate. Hong Kong have become more fluid in their passing game and their 85% passing accuracy is a fine reflection of this as they completed one hundred more passes than Singapore. Hong Kong completed 372 passes out of 439 attempts while Singapore completed 237 out of 305.
Hong Kong are in fine form and will be confident about getting the points required against Guam, North Korea and Chinese Taipei to have the chance to progress to the EAFF finals in Japan in 2017 to play China, South Korea and hosts, Japan. Singapore are in a period of transition and maybe it is time for their old guard to step aside and allow their youngsters greater opportunities to develop and flourish.
A few days earlier, Hong Kong managed to defeat Cambodia away 2-0 in wet and slippery conditions.
The national team have been the bright spot as Hong Kong football has been rocked by the ugly spectre of match fixing with certain players from Pegasus under investigation as well as the Hong Kong government possibly taking back land where Kitchee have built their state of the art training facility. Football fans will be looking for similar positive results in November to help lift the local game.