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Disputed Penalty Leaves Hong Kong’s Asian Cup 2019 Hopes by a Thread

Photo by Dennis Lo

ASIAN CUP 2019 QUALIFYING GROUP B

Hong Kong 0

Lebanon 1  ‘Hassan Maatouk

Attendance: 10,109

Hong Kong put in a brave and determined performance against Lebanon at Hong Kong stadium in their last home game in the Asian Cup 2019 Group B qualifiers. With all to play for, the home side gave a spirited and focused display and early on, their energy and drive gave them an edge over visitors. The away team had already secured qualification though still played to their highest abilities in a professional display. Hong Kong had many of the chances in the first half and on the 15th minute, Russell’s header was saved off the line by Mehdi Kahlil while in the 38th minute, Cancela had his rasping shot saved by the ever-present, Kahlil.

The early pressure proved to be a false dawn with the visitors running out 1-0 winners after an incredibly contentious penalty in the 43rd minute which lead to both a red card for Tan Chun-Lok. After much protestation from both players and the crowd, Hassan Maatouk, slotted home what proved to be the decisive goal of the game. Football photographer, JRP Borthwick, commented on the penalty “The Hong Kong players were understandably angry.” The referees almost became the focus of attention due to some highly disputed calls throughout the game much to the fury of the home crowd.

The sending off swung the trajectory of the game and there was further controversy when Russell was brought down in the opposition box but no call was given. Lebanon, with the man advantage, had a few early chances in the second half and in the 49th minute, Ali Hamam went close with his shot. Hong Kong did not give up and in the 54th minute, Huang Yang saw his rasping shot go over the bar. On the 59th minute, striker Jaimes McKee, had his over-arching cross punched out and the subsequent clearance fell to Huang Yang who fired in a spectacular half volley which lead to a flying save by Kahil.

Hong Kong pushed right to the end though again, spirit and drive was not enough to secure the points.  Hong Kong football fan, Nicholas Ng, commented on the determined Hong Kong performance.

“Really unlucky loss for HK. We showed great spirit and determination, and out of expectation, we used the ball pretty well, but we still lack a bit of penetration in the final third. The penalty was unfortunate, but it is never a straight red for me. In the 2nd half, I never felt that we were playing with 10 men, great performance by the team. But the choices and timing of the substitutions again, are questionable. I am impressed by the performance today, and I do hope that we can win in North Korea.”

The win leaves Lebanon as runaway group winners with 13 points while Hong Kong face an almost impossible task of defeating North Korea away in Pyongyang to secure second place and a trip to the finals in the UAE.

Bahrain Defeat Hong Kong 2-0 in an International Friendly

Before the Lebanon game, Bahrain defeated Hong Kong in an international friendly at Mong Kok stadium and football fan, Patrick Au-Yeung, provided the following comments.

“While Hong Kong intended to use Thursday’s international friendly against Bahrain to gain confidence before their crucial Asian Cup Qualifier facing Lebanon next Tuesday, the outcome was quite disappointing, however, as they were surrendered by a 2-0 loss to the visitors.”

“Although the men under Kim Pan-Gon enjoyed a streak of six undefeated games and beat Malaysia convincingly last month, they had hard times taming West Asian nations in recent match-ups. Hence, Kim used Bahrain to get his squad used to Lebanon. But they could not surprise higher FIFA-ranked Bahrain, who took advantage of Hong Kong’s concentration problem late in the match to tally twice (80th and 87th minutes) for their victory.”

“The match played out pretty evenly though, with a lot of midfield battles. However, Jordi could not repeat his magic after scoring two in as many matches for Hong Kong. His teammate, Wong Wai, had the best chance for the home side, volleying from 20 yards out required a diving save by the goalkeeper.”

“Despite Kim’s implementation of three strikers (Jordi, Jaimes McKee, and Wong), wingers seldomly manufactured chances for them to run for. However, the defense, formed with Fernando Recio, James Russell, and Helio Goncalves, have been solid throughout the match.”

“Youngsters in the roster, Li Ngai-hoi and Cheng Chin-lung, made their appearances as promised Kim at the pre-game press conference Wednesday. However, a lack of concentrating momentarily – following Cheng’s substitution and the sudden change of formation as a result – might have constituted the conceded goal.”

“Kim, who looked dejected at the post-game conference, expressed his satisfaction of the team’s performance for the first 60 minutes. When he had to give some playing chances to the young players, there would be some sacrifice, meaning it would be difficult to notch a victory and have youngsters on the field at the same time. For the next few days, he will have a big workload as he has to raise team’s morale and come up with the best 11 players for the real test next Tuesday.”

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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