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Careless Hong Kong squander three points against nine man Malaysia in Asian Cup Qualifier

Muhammad Hatim Ab Manan of The New Straits Times

Hong Kong squandered a two man advantage and missed a hotly disputed injury time penalty to drop three points to draw 1-1 against Malaysia in an Asian Cup qualification match last night.

The result of the game at the Hang Jebat Stadium in Melaka, has now severely dented both team’s chances of Asian Cup qualification and Hong Kong will be kicking themselves for letting such a great opportunity slip from their hands. 

The first twenty minutes of the game saw the two teams simply finding their touch and scoping each other out. In a first half devoid of any fluency from either side, Hong Kong had the better of the chances to score and in the 29th minute, Alex had a low drive from the right, saved by the Malaysian keeper, Muhammad Hafizul Hakim.

In the 41st minute, Lam Ka Wai’s free-kick was pushed away for a corner. The subsequent corner was taken by Chan Siu Ki and was headed downwards by Alex but saved on the line again by Hafizul Hakim. The second half picked up in terms of pace and attacking vibrancy and both teams decided to push with a greater sense of purpose. Malaysia should have taken the lead in the 49th minute when a well-measured cross from Mohd Syazwan Bin Zainon was just missed by Baddrol Bin Bakhitiar.

In the 50th minute, Sandro eluded a few challenges and drove a low shot which was well saved by the Malaysian keeper. The follow up by McKee was also saved. Both Sandro and McKee were involved in Hong Kong’s first goal as a pinpoint cross from McKee was swept home by Sandro in the 53rd minute and Hong Kong were 1-0 ahead and deservedly so.

Hong Kong’s joy did not last long as a deflected shot fell nicely to Mohd Syazwan who placed it home in the 56th minute. The game was now tied 1-1 and often Hong Kong concede due to a lack of concentration but in this instance, it was sheer bad luck though Malaysia had also upped their offensive game and drawing level was not a surprise.

Parity could have been restored in the 59th minute when another accurate McKee cross was played into the box and with both Alex and Sandro unmarked, it should have been 2-1 though Alex was caught unawares and scoffed it wide of the post. In the 63rd minute, Darren Lok dragged a shot wide of the Hong Kong post and reminded Hong Kong of Malaysia’s attacking intent. In the 79th minute, a Hong Kong free kick was skimmed in and saved by Muhammad Hafizul Hakim who subsequently pushed it out yet Alex did not react fast enough to get a shot on target.

Malaysia were reduced to 9 men after Rizal Mohd Ghazali and Mohd Abdul Zafuan were both sent off for two subsequent yellow cards with the latter sent off for a foul by on Alex in the penalty box. Both red cards were for  Malaysia were protested furiously by the home players, management and crowd. Sandro took the subsequent penalty in the 96th minute of the game and his penalty was saved after it was poorly taken and his follow up from the rebound was dragged wide of the post. A chance for three valuable points, in the tough arena of international football, subsequently lost. The end of the game saw Hong Kong players drop their heads and again wonder what could have been. There are very few times when your opposition are two men down and you are granted a penalty with no time left on the clock and still not win.

Nicholas Ng, a keen Hong Kong supporter was damning of the Hong Kong away performance.

“Very disappointing match once again. Perhaps we Hong Kong fans should not expect anything from the very beginning. There was a questionable starting formation to begin with as Lam Ka Wai was sitting too deep whilst Sandro is not an attacking midfielder. Also, why always use Kilama and Sealy when they haven’t played football for like two years. Absolutely rubbish first half and no one was driving the ball forward except Wang Yang and Chan.”

“In the second half, Wong Wai came on and put on a very bright display with a couple of nice through balls and deserved to be on a winning side. In the final moments with the penalty; why would Sandro propose to take it when he could not even make a pass two minutes prior; rubbish penalty. Hong Kong deserve to be out, and we need a better coach to bring us more innovative and modern football tactics.”

Patrick Au Yeung, a Hong Kong fan and writer also commented on the game.

“Whilst Hong Kong thought they had enough preparations to fulfil their away game assignment while visiting Malaysia for AFC Cup 2019 Qualifiers, they did not come up with a victory by drawing in a 1-1 tie this past Tuesday night in Malaka. Sandro missed the penalty in second half stoppage time to break Hong Kong’s dream to qualify for the finals.”

“It is hard to believe the top scorer in the HKPL last season would have missed this most important penalty kick. Moreover, the reality is Kim’s troops did not play to their best ability. Starter, Chan Siu Ki, who tallied the only goal in last Thursday’s international friendly against Singapore, looked invisible in the first half. No other reliable midfielder successfully bridged the gap between the defence and the offence. Hong Kong performed better in the last 45 minutes but they still failed to dominate the mediocre Malaysian side.”

Both Hong Kong and Malaysia played out an entertaining game and the result leaves Malaysia bottom of the group with one points while Hong Kong are third on goal difference with two draws and one loss. This is one of the most open Asian Cups in decades and this is  truly a missed opportunity for Hong Kong to make the finals and to be honest, this could be a catalyst for change especially in the playing squad.

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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