Caroliners' goalkeeper Leonard has eyes on full set of medals
SOUTH China goalkeeper Mick Leonard will be hoping to complete his set of Hong Kong footballing medals when the Caroliners meet Sing Tao in today's Senior Shield final.
Leonard has won every medal there is in local soccer - apart from a Senior Shield winners medal - and is keen to add to his collection this afternoon when the first piece of this season's domestic silverware will be up for grabs.
'I've been lucky so far. I've got a winners' medal from every tournament apart from the Senior Shield. If we can do the business [today] I'd have the full set,' Leonard said yesterday.
Whether Leonard will have his wish granted today will hinge on the performances of his teammates.
Last week's 3-1 victory over Happy Valley in the semi-finals was South China's best performance of the season and as Leonard pointed out yesterday, when the Caroliners manage to complete a match with 11 men they are a formidable unit.
'I think we showed last week that we can play a bit. The problem has been this season that with all the sendings off we've had we have always been struggling.' One South China player who has not struggled so far this term is Fernando Ornelas.
The languid Paraguayan has been a revelation and on current form he is by some distance the most dangerous attacking player on the local scene.
Never afraid to try the unorthodox - witness his dipping thunderbolt from 30 yards which rattled off the woodwork against Valley - Ornelas has quickly established himself as the darling of South China's army of fans.
He caused all manner of problems for Happy Valley last week and there is every chance he will give Sing Tao's defenders a similarly rough ride this afternoon.
'He's got fantastic ability,' Leonard enthused yesterday.
'He's good with both feet and his pace is terrific . . . he's got a couple of yards on most players around.
'He reminds me of Faustino Asprilla [Colombia's international striker] - you never know what he is going to do next and I don't think he knows himself half the time,' Leonard quipped.
'He's settled in now and his confidence is up. It's just great to watch him when he's on form - he causes problems for defenders because he's not afraid to run at them.' While South China will approach the game in a buoyant mood, they will be wary of the threat posed by Sing Tao, who go into today's final on the back of a four-game winning streak.
For a club thought to be on the brink of extinction before the season kicked off, Sing Tao's upwardly mobile progress - they are top of the Ericsson League - has been one of the more surprising stories so far this year.
The jewel in Sing Tao's crown is Wai Kwan-lung, who has scored eight goals in seven games.
Having been used as a wingman in recent seasons, the speedy forward is now revelling in his new position of centre-forward and is likely to relish the wide open spaces at the Hong Kong Stadium today.
But he will still have a determined Leonard to deal with.