Kwok looks for Instant redemption in final
Kwok Ka-ming has the chance today to exorcise the demons of the past as he leads Instant-Dict into the FA Cup final against arch-rivals South China at Hong Kong Stadium.
He tasted bitter defeat earlier this season when his side were beaten 1-0 by Yee Hope in the final of the Senior Challenge Shield in late December. It was a loss that tore into the hearts of the team who had been sitting on a 13-match winning streak.
Yee Hope were the underdogs on that sunny afternoon on New Year's Eve, but crowd favourites South China are now slightly favoured to lift their first trophy for the season.
Kwok knows the pain of losing in a Cup final and he doesn't need to tell his charges about the indignation of losing again. Not this time. 'We were too complacent and we started the match against Yee Hope too confidently last time. That was our problem,' said Kwok while trying to explain that surprise defeat.
'We are not really the favourites this time. There are no strong favourites as the match looks to be more evenly poised. We simply don't want to lose again,' he said.
'Yes, it was bitter to lose against Yee Hope in that Shield final, but it was just one of those afternoons. Look what happened to Sun Hei against Happy Valley in the League Cup final [Happy Valley won 2-1 in extra time] and you will see my point.'
Kwok will forever remember his greatest achievement when he masterminded Hong Kong's 2-1 defeat of China in the World Cup qualifier in Beijing.
Now, he has been given another chance of tasting Cup glory on a domestic level for the first time.
Instant-Dict's 3-0 demolition of League Cup champions Happy Valley in the FA Cup semi-finals on Tuesday night has boosted Kwok's confidence. But he remains wary - especially after losing to Yee Hope - convinced that Cup finals are something special.
'The players are ready and we seem to be peaking at the right moment. We don't have any serious injury problems but Cup finals . . . anything can happen,' he said.
Kwok will be looking to in-form Slovakian striker Martin Jancula and the former Slovan Bratislava player has shown the kind of form that would give any coach confidence going into a Cup final.
Jancula has so far scored six goals in four matches, getting on the scoresheet in Instant-Dict's 3-0 win over Happy Valley on Tuesday.
Indonesian forward Rochi Putiray will come into the match in lethal form after scoring twice against Happy Valley.
South China team director Peter Leung Shou-chi insisted Instant-Dict are the favourites for today's final. 'I am impressed by Instant's attack, their recent form, their stamina and their attitude.
'They are better than us in those aspects, but this is a Cup final and Cup finals can sometimes throw up surprising results.
'We're not at our best, but it doesn't mean we are out of it either,' said Leung.
South China will definitely miss defensive midfielder Shum Kwok-pui who has a neck injury. It's touch and go for Brazilian defender Cristiano Cordeiro who needed seven stitches after a clash of heads during South China's 3-2 win over 10-man Sun Hei in the FA Cup semi-finals.
The stitches come out today, but Leung cautioned that Cordeiro should be rested today, although he did not rule out an appearance from the talented defender.
Midfielder Lee Wai-tik comes back from injury, but he will be on the substitute's bench as South China face an enviable task against Instant-Dict, who beat them 3-1 in the League Cup third-place playoff on April 15.