HK Team

Kenneth Kwok leads Hong Kong to consecutive cup glory

Photo: Zinc Yeung (offside.hk)

Despite the 2-1 away loss in Guangzhou on January 6th, a commanding display by the young HKFA squad at home on Jan 9th sealed the victory in the 41st Guangdong-Hong Kong Cup (5:2 on aggregate) for the second consecutive year. The 4-0 win also marked the highest margin win for Hong Kong in the history of the tournament. 4096 spectators witnessed the moment on a Wednesday night at Hong Kong Stadium. 

Hong Kong have shown attacking mentality right from the beginning of the match, as they players did not hesitate to challenge the Guangdong defenders. The high pressing style of play almost led to a goal in the 15th minute, when Cheng Siu-kwan sprinted to intercept a slow return pass to the Guangdong goalkeeper Hou Yu, but Cheng’s close-range attempt was saved. In the 22nd minute, Cheng Siu-kwan’s freekick from the right was missed by the entire Guangdong defense, before Matthew Orr tapped in from close range and opened the score for the evening. 

After the goal, Guangdong tried to retain possession and attack via long through balls from the back, but Hong Kong continued to rely on both flanks to test their opponent’s defense. Guangdong made a few attempts, but failed to beat Hong Kong goalkeeper Choy Tsz-to or the focused centre-back pair Leung Nok-hang and Yu Wai-lim. In the 28th minute, Guangdong’s Deng Yubiao’s shot went over the bar.

Hong Kong responded with a corner from the left in the 38th minute, but Leung Nok-hang’s header missed the target. Two minutes later, Yue Tze-lam’s long-range shot from outside the box was tipped out by Hou Yu. Guangdong had a golden chance to score from a corner during stoppage time, but Tu Dongxu headed wide. This also marked the end of the first half.

Guangdong returned from the break with a change, as Zhong Juzhan was replaced by Shenzhen FC’s Ye Chugui. However, before Ye made any contribution to his team, Hong Kong scored again. Sun Ming-him’swell-placed freekick found the unmarked Leung Nok-hang in the box and “Sai Lo’s” header beat Hou Yu. The second goal gave an additional boost to Hong Kong’s morale.

Guangdong had to become more aggressive and push forward, but this also meant that Hong Kong could profit from counter-attacks. In fact, one of these occasions resulted in a controversial penalty in the 56th minute. Hong Kong’s flamboyant forward Yuen Chun-sing was fouled, but the foul might have been actually committed outside the box. Nonetheless, referee Tam Ping-wun pointed to the penalty spot and Yuen placed his shot in the bottom right corner to make it 3-0.

Guangdong’s head coach Chen Yuliang quickly responded by making three changes, Chen Zijie, Tu Dongxu and Deng Yubiao were replaced by Xu Jiajun, Gong Liangxuan and Zeng Yuming respectively. These changes worked well, and Guangdong almost scored in the 64th minute, when Choy Tsz-to was beaten by Guangdong’s attack. But the close-range shot was blocked by Sun Ming-him in front of the goal line. Cheng Chin-lung, who just returned from injury, was replaced by Remi Dujardin in the 65th minute.

The tension between the two sides became physical in the 68th minute, following a foul in the midfield and some shoving between Guangdong and Hong Kong players. Consequently, both Matthew Orr and Hou Yu were sent off by the referee.

It may not be what everyone wants to see on the pitch, but this suggested that both teams wanted the win badly.

Yang Chao came from the bench to replace Hou Yu in goal, and just a few minutes later he was beaten by Yue Tze-lam’s wonder strike from outside the box. Yue volleyed the ball towards the top left corner of the goal, which led to the final goal of Hong Kong’s victory. Guangdong’s head coach Chen Yuliang was upset with the referee’s decisions and complained with anger. He was soon sent off by the referee in the 74th minute. Hong Kong’s 4-0 victory also leveled the biggest winning margin in a single match in the 41-year history of the Guangdong-Hong Kong Cup (Guangdong beat Hong Kong by four goals in 1991 and 1995).

Head coach Kenneth Kwok thanked the home fans after the win.

In the post-match press conference, Hong Kong’s head coach Kenneth Kwok praised the passion of the fans and his hard-working young squad. “A year ago, many of our players were watching the Guangdong-Hong Kong Cup at home or in the stadium. I hope that they could keep their heads up after this win, work hard in their clubs, and break into the national squad.”

When asked about the fans who chanted that he should become Hong Kong’s next head coach, Kwok joked that he believes the fans are “looking after his well-being”. After standing for a long time at the pitch side, they might have justed wanted to “offer him the closest seat”. Kwok also responded to Guangdong’s complaints and suggested that he usually does not complain about refereeing decisions. It should be noted that many fans praised the professional performance of the referee in the first leg.

Before the evening kick off, the Hong Kong women’s team took on the Guangdong side once again in a friendly, which ended in a 2-2 draw. This was a great improvement from the 2-6 loss three days earlier, when the Guangdong side won the Guangdong-Hong Kong Women’s Cup. Trailing twice, Hong Kong equalized with goals from Yiu Hei-man and Poon Ka-ka in the 52nd and 78th minute respectively, while Zeng Minyi and Liao Meixin tallied for the away side.

 

Starting Line-up:

19 – Choy Tsz-to
2 – Law Tsz-chun
3 – Yu Wai-lim
5 – Leung Nok-hang
6 – Wu Chun-ming
9 – Yuen Chun-sing
10 – Cheng Chin-lung
11 – Cheng Siu-kwan
15 – Yue Tze-lam
16 – Sun Ming-him
22 – Matthew Orr

Substitutes:

7 – Remi Dujardin (for Cheng Chin-lung at 65’)
17 – Lam Lok-kan (for Cheng Siu-kwan at 72’)
21 – Peng Linlin (for Yuen Chun-sing at 82’)
13 – Ho Chun-ting (for Wu Chun-ming, 86’)
20 – Harima Hirokane (for Sun Ming-him, 89’)
27 – Cheng Tsz-sum (for Yue Tze-lam, 89’)

 

Photo gallery by Zinc Yeung (offside.hk)

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