After two days of heavy rain in Hong Kong, the sun came out just in time for the English Premier League Asia Trophy. The two matches were played in front of a sold-out Hong Kong Stadium, with Liverpool and Leicester City triumphing over their opponents to book their place in the final on Saturday.
West Bromwich Albion vs Leicester City
The first match of the day was played between 2015-2016 EPL champions Leicester City and West Bromwich Albion. Perhaps as this was just a pre-season friendly, both teams were less aggressive in both defence and attack, but Jay Rodriguez took advantage of the early lull in play to score a thunderbolt long range shot to give the Baggies the lead in the 10th minute.
Leicester City did manage to fashion several chances after conceding, with Riyad Mahrez, the 2015-2016 English PFA Player of the Year, setting up Matty James for a shot but failing to trouble the goalkeeper by putting his shot over the bar. Mahrez was not to be outdone, however, and eleven minutes later he scored a superb solo goal as he placed the ball in the bottom right hand corner thanks to poor defending from West Brom, leveling the score.
Again, it was Riyad Mahrez who had a chance to give the Foxes the lead just before half-time but his effort was well saved by Ben Foster. Jamie Vardy, the record holder for most consecutive English Premier League games with a goal, came in for Shinji Okazaki and received rapturous applause from the Hong Kong fans.
Leicester City had a chance to take the lead at the start of the second half with Vardy escaping offside and holding the ball at the right-hand side of the box, but his hasty shot was just wide of the post thanks to the speedy intervention by Jonny Evans. The Baggies did have a chance to score from a set piece, but Nacer Chadli’s shot was too central and easily saved by Hamer.
The score was level at full time and the trial ABBA system for penalty shoot-outs was used to determine the winner. Ben Foster initially managed to save Danny Drinkwater’s penalty, but the ball hit his leg and went in, missing the chance to put West Brom into the final. Not long after, Hamer saved youngster Sam Field’s attempt, with Marc Albrighton putting his spot kick secured the Foxes a place in the final.
Ben Hamer [GK], Harry Maguire (Haryy Maguire 46), Tom Lawrence (Marc Albrighton 48), Daniel Amartey (Wes Morgan 46), Islam Slimani (Andy King 45), Shinji Okazaki (Jamie Vardy 45), Matty James [C] (Danny Drinkwater 45), Wilfred Ndidi (Leo Ulloa 45), Riyad Mahrez (Vicente Iborra 48), Yohan Benalouane (Christian Fuchs 46), Callum Elder (Elliot Moore 46)
West Bromwich Albion:
[GK] Ben Foster, Allan Nyom, Claudio Yacob (Nacer Chadli 52), [C] Jonny Evans, Jake Livermore (Rekeem Harper 77), Salomón Rondón (Hal Robson Kanu 57), Matt Phillips (Jonathan Leko 57), Chris Brunt (Sam Field 52), Jay Rodriguez (Jame Mclean 52), Craig Dawson, Ahmed Hagazi (Kane Wilson 66)
Liverpool vs Crystal Palace
The second match was played between Liverpool and Crystal Palace. Notably, most fans were supporting the Reds in the stadium and a large number of them stood up to sing the club anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone” right before kick off – a rare sight of football enthusiasm in Hong Kong.
Liverpool started aggressively with their typical Jurgen Klopp direct approach method football, including high pressing and fast counter attacks. However, Crystal Palace seemed happy to drop deep, so Liverpool were not able to create a lot of chances. Meanwhile the Eagles were more threatening on the counter attack with the help of pacey attackers like Wilfred Zaha and Andros Townsend, but no shot on goal was produced. Liverpool fought their way back into the game, but Daniel Sturridge’s shot was blocked by Scott Dann. Mohamed Salah had a threatening long shot not long after, but the ball hit Daniel Sturridge and went wide of the post.
Liverpool substituted a number of players in the second half, and they finally took the lead in the 61st minute after Divock Origi found Dominic Solanke with a clever back-heel pass and the latter scored from outside the box. Crystal Palace tried to fight back and threatened Liverpool with some set-pieces, but no danger was created. Meanwhile Liverpool extended the lead in the 79th minute by Origi after a little bit of chaos inside the Eagles’ box following James Milner’s cross. The match ended with Liverpool beating Crystal Palace 2-0, meaning the Reds will play Leicester City at 8:30 pm on Saturday in the final, while Crystal Palace will play West Brom at 6:00 pm for third place.
Simon Mignolet [GK], Roberto Firmino (Philippe Coutinho 49), Mohamed Salah (Ryan Kent 51, Joe Gomez (Dejan Lovern 46), Jordan Henderson [C] (Dominic Solanke 51), Daniel Sturridge (Divock Origi 49), Alberto Moreno (James Milner 46), Adam Lallana (Georginio Wijnaldum 49), Joel Matip (Ragnar Klavan 46), Ben Woodburn (Marco Grujic 46), Trent Alexander-Arnold (Trent Alexander-Arnold 46)
Wayne Hennessey [GK], Joel Ward, Luka Milivojević (Ruben Loftus-Cheek 77), Scott Dann (Martin Kelly 77), Andros Townsend (Aaron Wan Bissaka 60), Wilfried Zaha (Nya Kirby 77), Christian Benteke (Freddie Ladapo 71), Keshi Anderson (Bakary Sako 65), Damien Delaney, Jeffrey Schlupp (Patrick Van Aanholt 60), Jason Puncheon [C] (Michael Philips 77)
Photo Gallery by Ryan Kam