Kitchee hosted English champions Manchester City at Hong Kong Stadium on the 24th of July, as part of City’s Asia Preseason Tour, for the Jockey Club Kitchee Centre cup. As expected, the Sky Blues took apart their navy counterparts in a dominant 6-1 demolition, but the Hong Kong outfit, to their credit, played with everything they’ve got and could leave with their heads held high.
City fielded a team of first-team regulars sprinkled with Academy prospects. Belgium playmaker Kevin De Bruyne took charge of the midfield, twisting Kitchee inside and out with his dribbling; wingers Bernardo Silva and Sterling dazzled the crowd with their speed and finesse, and Kyle Walker and John Stones added British steel to a backline designed to snuff out Kitchee’s counterattacks. David Silva, declared to be leaving City at the end of the season, also emerged to the rapture of the crowd, many of whom only seeing “El Mago” in the flesh for the first time.
Wave after wave of deadly black assaulted the Kitchee goal from the opening whistle. The gulf in class was apparent; Kitchee static and frantic as the City stars settled into their Spanish passing style, probing for openings. Within minutes of the game, Sterling and De Bruyne both saw their respective efforts on goal begging. Kitchee settled down quickly into a solid defensive bloc, ten men behind the ball and determined to bring their game to the Manchester boys.
Clad in the new zany away strip inspired by the famous nightclub, The Hacienda, City looked relaxed — almost bored; every time Kitchee got the ball and tried to surge forward, it would be nipped away or, failing that, the running player would be downed by physical play of Danilo and Walker at the back. The crowd loved watching the underdog, however, and the noise always rose to a fever pitch every time the local boys had the ball.
Alas, the gulf in class seemed too much. David Silva and Sterling put the visitors two up before halftime, Sane would score immediately after the break, and academy players Nabil Touaizi and Iker Pozo also took their chances well in front of Pep Guardiola with goals of their own. The best applause from both sets of fans was reserved for Kitchee boy Law Tsz-chun, who scored off an assist from Wellingsson de Souza to bring a consolation goal back for the local side.
At the 21st minute of each half, fans broke out into song. Not club songs or jeering at the opposition, but into “Can You Hear The People Sing”. This song, sung during the Occupy protests, was a call to foreign media and entities to take note of the political crisis that continues to grip the city, and fans were insistent on singing in English so as to get the point across. This was followed by chants of “Free Hong Kong!” and “Hong Kong people, add oil!”. A fan also invaded the pitch to scream something unintelligible at the camera, before walking off the pitch and turning himself into security.
Despite being in full uniform, Brian Fok, the new recruit for Kitchee, was unable to play because he was not registered with the Hong Kong Football Association. President of Kitchee, Ken Ng, apologized on Facebook for what looked like “an administrative mistake.”
“Our staff did not update the registration list with the HKFA after the late contract signature with Brian,” Ng continued in the post. “My sincere apology to Brian.”
City will journey on to play sister club Yokohama F. Marinos in Japan to conclude their tour, while Kitchee will get back to pre-season training in a bid for silverware in the upcoming HKPL season.
Kitchee 1:6 Manchester City (Hong Kong Stadium, 24th of July, Attendance: 20,926)
Photos by Christie Leung and Zinc Yeung: