After an absence of more than six months, the Hong Kong national team returned to action Thursday night, October 11th, at Mong Kok Stadium, where they faced Thailand for an international friendly. Despite a 0-1 loss, the team under new head coach Gary White left a positive impression and showed their fighting character on the field.
The decisive tally was registered before the game reaching the two-minute mark, when Philip Roller put one past Yapp Hung-fai after receiving a through pass from Supachai Chaided.
Since then, the visitors looked to add one more by intensifying their attacks via the wings, however, without success, as Festus Baise and Andy Russell held the defensive line together. Slowly Hong Kong eased into the game to create some chances on their own. Xu Deshuai made a couple of efforts that required timely stops from opposition goalkeeper Siwarak Tedsungnoen. Headers from striker Paul Olivier Ngue and center-back Festus Baise barely missed the target. The best chance, though, belonged to Alex Akande, who was unmarked to receive a header from Andy Russell, but his right-foot shot only brushed off the far post.
Returning from the break, after Chananan Pombhuppha failed to double the lead for Thailand, the momentum shifted entirely in favor of Hong Kong, who nearly dominated the second half with some notable scoring occasions. Xu’s half-volley was one of those close calls. Then, the entering of Giovane da Silva, Tan Chun-lok, and Sandro, three of six substitutes made by White in the second half, has sparked even more quality attacks. R&F striker Giovane da Silva dribbled past the Thai defense for a breakaway that was only saved by the goalkeeper’s leg. Later on, his sensational pass to Tsang Kam-to almost proved to be fatal, but the Eastern full back finished poorly.
A respectable crowd of 4,740 people found their way to Mong Kok Stadium to witness White’s debut. But even without notching victory that night, the core supporter groups on the Boundary Street stands kept chanting White’s name long after the final whistle. Although Thailand included a few junior players in this contest, the Hong Kong team showed that they are capable of challenging one of the better Asian sides with higher FIFA ranking. Hong Kong are sitting at 143rd in the world, while Thailand are 122nd.
During the post-game press conference, White, in charge of his squad for only two weeks, explicitly expressed that he was very pleased with the team performance, seeing his men recapturing imagination and passion. Although being shut out from scoring, White was not too worried about it, because the team has been creating enough chances throughout 90 minutes. Hence, the ultimate target for the next game would be to simply “put it in the goal”. Hong Kong will have the chance to do just that when they encounter Indonesia on Tuesday, October 16th, for an away friendly game.
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Hong Kong’s line-up
1 Yapp Hung-fai [GK] [C]
2 Dani Cancela
3 Festus Baise
6 Huang Yang
7 Alex Akande
8 Xu Deshuai
11 Wong Wai
14 Cheng King-ho
15 Paul Olivier Ngue
22 Jaimes McKee
23 Andy Russell
20 Leung Chun-pong (for Huang Yang, 58′)
9 Giovane da Silva (for Alex Akande, 58′)
17 Lee Ka-yiu (for Xu Deshuai 58′ )
10 Sandro (for Paul Olivier Ngue 72′)
16 Tan Chun-lok (for Wong Wai 72′)
13 Tsang Kam-to (for Jaimes McKee 87′)
On the bench only:
18 Yuen Ho-chun [GK]
19 Wang Zhenpeng [GK]
4 Lau Hok-ming
5 Leung Nok-hang
12 Yue Tze-nam
21 Tong Kin-man
Photo gallery by offside.hk photographer Zinc Yeung: