- Victory over visitors’ 10 men could prove vital for AFC Asian Cup 2023 qualifying hopes
- Attacking formation pays off with Roberto Affonso-inpsired 2-0 defeat of side that they drew 1-1 with on matchday one
Hong Kong's men's football team finally threw off the shackles in their dual Fifa 2022 World Cup and AFC Asian Cup 2023 qualifying campaign at Hong Kong Stadium on Tuesday night.
Head coach Mixu Paatelainen threw caution to the wind with a front three of James Ha, Alex Akande and Giovane Alves Da Silva " and the Finn was rewarded with a first three points of his tenure and two goals to boot.
He was justified in his selection. Ha and Akande's pace caused problems for the Cambodia defence and those two were involved in the opening goal in the 20th minute. It was scored by Ha, volleying home emphatically, but it was made by the direct running of Akande down the right wing and the cross from Roberto Affonso Jnr.
Paatelainen had said in the pre-match press conference that the team had worked on tactics to create chances and this was straight off the training ground. It was used time and again, along with sending Andy Russell up for long throws and dead balls, although there were no further goals from those tactics.
Despite giving up a goal the young Cambodia had certainly not given up and were playing much the more fluent football. They had even begun to threaten Yapp Hung-fai's goal more often as the second half went on but it was a threat on the goalkeeper himself that changed the game. The evidence in the dugouts was that Hong Kong were the more ruffled despite leading with Paatelainen pacing up from the bench to the edge of his technical area while counterpart Keisuke Honda looked more relaxed.
That all changed in the 77th minute when the visiting captain Souey Visal was sent off for blocking Yapp from launching the ball up front for another attack, receiving his second yellow of the match. The skipper handed off the armband to substitute Reung Bunheing and trudged off the pitch to make the long walk past the Hong Kong fans back to the tunnel. He was waved goodbye by most of the 6,497 in the stands.
Hong Kong supporters turn their back on China anthem with several booing. It's a familiar sight and presumably a familiar fine from FIFA awaits. pic.twitter.com/mwnEjnASzI
" Jonathan White (@jmawhite) November 19, 2019
That was an even bigger crowd than at the stadium for the Bahrain game last week and they were once again in fine voice to support the team. Many also exhibited their displeasure at the Chinese national anthem March of the Volunteers before the game. Based on past experiences, the Hong Kong FA can expect another fine from Fifa in due course.
The red card may not have been decisive but the goal that came minutes later was.
That strike came from Roberto Affonso Jnr and it put the game beyond doubt. The midfielder picked up a mishit Cancela cross at the edge of the box and calmly found the far corner, leaving Cambodia goalkeeper Keo Soksela stranded.
FT: HKG 2 - 0 CAMHong Kong record their first win in the #AsianQualifiers after a victory over Cambodia in Group C! pic.twitter.com/gZTXZYqTsF
" AFC (@theafcdotcom) November 19, 2019
"Congratulations to Hong Kong, it's a good victory for them," Cambodia coach Felix Dalmas said after the game. "Our players tried and I am really proud of the way they played. Even when we were a man down, still going forward, still trying to control the game, still trying to follow through with the philosophy."
"We knew that Hong Kong has very strong Brazilian players and they do make a difference but I feel like we fought through that and an away crowd. I'm very proud of the players, 100 per cent."
Hong Kong coach Paatelainen was happy after his first win. "The boys were fantastic, the spirit that we have developed inside the team when we go out and play. Yes we have played very difficult matches against high quality teams. The spirit the players show is fantastic, and that's something I just told them."
"I felt that the match was under control all the way, we nullified Cambodia's game altogether, so all credit to the players, tactically they were fantastic."
Ha went off for Law Tsz-chun after the goal and then Affonso followed. There was a standing ovation and a handshake from the manager for a goal and assist, Wong Wai replacing the match winner.
The crowd's voices swelled and the side went looking for a rare third, with central defender Andy Russell trying to get in on the act but it was not to be.
World Cup 2022: Coach wants goals from 'improving' Hong Kong
A rare victory for Hong Kong puts them in the driving seat ahead of Cambodia for the all important fourth-place finish in group C and a chance of avoiding the play-offs in Asian Cup qualifying.
The celebrations were shared with marking Jaimes McKee's retirement. The forward, who played 53 times and scored 12 times for Hong Kong before retiring this summer, got one of the biggest cheers of the night when his face was shown on the big screen in the first half. He then made an emotional speech to thank the fans at half-time.
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