Sunday, June 26, 2011

Hong Kong gallant in defeat against Uzbekistan

By Yick Hong Lam - AFF Hong Kong correspondent

Hong Kong and Uzbekistan do battle
in the second leg of their 2012 Olympic Qualifier
With a hard fought effort in the first leg in Uzbekistan, the Hong Kong Olympic managed to get a 0-1 result.

Considering the difference in ability between the two teams, the coach and fans all agreed the result was indeed a good one, if somewhat lucky. Coach Liu Chun-Fai praised the team effort, and called for support in the second leg at home.

Attendance at Hong Kong football matches is always heavily affected by the weather, due to the lack of hardcore fans base.

A typhoon had been approaching the city two days before the match and came really close on match day.

2,782 is not a very good attendance in Hong Kong, but it's not that bad either. Strong wind and heavy rain would create very poor conditions for their passing game and the humidity and temperate will be difficult to adapt for the Uzbekistan players.

Therefore, discussion among the local fans was the weather was one of Hong Kong's secret weapons. The other, is James Stephen Gee Ha.

Nicknamed "The Bullet", the quick winger shared the best youth player of the year with the U23 striker To Hon-to and has just joined the league champion Kitchee during the off season. Fans and the coach hoped his absence in the first leg could see him surprise the Uzbek's with his pace on the counter.

However, James Ha was not included in the starting line up. The coach opted to deploy a defensive 4-5-1, similar to the first leg in Uzbekistan, which arguably only has three attacking players.

The idea is clear, keep the scoreline unchanged and a fresh James Ha would hurt the opponent when their stamina went down.

However, the tactics didn't work out as planned, with Uzbek captain Fozil Musaev scoring for Uzbekistan from 20 yards in just the 8th minute. Hong Kong U23 started the match slow and with a lack of confidence to hold the ball against the technically superior opponent.

Uzbekistan scored another goal in the 19th min, which meant Hong Kong had to score 4 goals to progress.

As the task had become a mission impossible, the Hong Kong players finally digested the pressure and started to press. In the mean time, Hong Kong substituted the ineffective number 10 Au Yeung Yiu-Chung with the secret weapon James Ha.

The weather didn't work out as the fans hoped, as the rain have stopped in the morning. 
Neither did James Ha.

The quick winger did add some pace to the team. But the two defensive midfielders didn't give the team any creative ideas. With the lack of support, Hong Kong's two best young players of the year didn't pull off anything up front, even though the Uzbekistan defense was not as assured at the passing game.

Still, the players fought hard in the entire second half, possibly thanks to the half time team talk. Uzbekistan didn't find it easy to split up the defense and couldn't pull off the attacking performance they had at home.

Both center halves for Hong Kong are not natural defenders, but their fighting spirit kept the team in game. Uzbekistan had two more chances to score but both were no real threat to goalkeeper Yapp Hung-Fai.

With this 0-2 loss, Hong Kong are now out of the 2012 London Olympic as most people expected.

Now all Hong Kong fans can turn their eyes to the new season, the last Hong Kong first division league before the Hong Kong super league project begins.


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