South China win laurels as United toil to victory

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 July, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 July, 1997, 12:00am

They came bedecked in their Manchester United apparel but, at one stage, were chanting for local champions South China.

The crowd of 36,118 at the Hong Kong Stadium yesterday probably expected the English champions to treat South China with the kind of disdain Inter Milan showed for another Hong Kong team, Sing Tao, when crushing them 8-0 last month.

But United, missing key players Ryan Giggs, David Beckham and Gary Neville, had to work hard for their 1-0 victory, to follow up last week's 2-0 win over Thailand.

Veteran South China midfielder Leslie Santos sparked the crowd into a frenzy midway through the second half when he squeezed into the United area after a one-two, but shot wide.

The supporters then launched into chants of 'Nam Wah', 'Nam Wah' as South China lifted their game and played with more confidence.

But just as South China appeared in the mood to score, the visitors ended the home side's brief period of dominance with a 76th-minute winning goal through Dutchman Jordi Cruyff.

The expected capacity 40,000 crowd never materialised after some fans, disappointed by the withdrawals of Giggs, Beckham and Neville, returned their tickets. But it was still the biggest crowd for a soccer match at the Hong Kong Stadium since Sampdoria's 1994 sellout.