Two-goal Ali inspires KCC win
Rejuvenated by the news that star playmaker Arif Ali will remain in town until the end of the season, Kowloon Cricket Club A scored a convincing 4-2 victory over Hong Kong Football Club A in the South China Premier League competition at King's Park yesterday.
Ali, Hong Kong's sole hockey export, was supposed to have left for Singapore where he was due to play for Singapore Recreation Club in the city's top league competition which was due to begin on February 14, Valentine's Day. But news of the Lion City's league being postponed until June resulted in Ali delaying his departure until the end of the season.
It was good news for KCC. Bad news for Football Club, who yesterday saw Ali score a brace of goals, both from penalty corners, as KCC swept to only their third win this season in the eight-team premier division which is presently poised at the halfway stage. It was the second time that KCC had beaten Club this season.
'I suppose I will play the rest of the season now. I will be going to England this week to look at the prospects of playing there sometime in the future, but I will be back in time for our next big game against Shaheen later this month,'' said Ali.
Captain of a young KCC outfit, Ali was the spark that fired the side to what in the end was a comfortable victory over Club. Ali opened the scoring in the 10th minute when he converted a penalty corner and sealed the win with his side's last goal in the 55th minute by converting another short corner, KCC's seventh of the match.
Sandwiched between these two lethal Ali strikes were goals from impressive striker Harinder Singh and up-and-coming youngster Ken Wong. In both cases Ali was the provider. Singh's goal resulted from a short corner, which Ali cleverly passed on to the unmarked Singh, while Wong deflected a long pass from Ali into the roof of the Club net.
Club were in with a shout for most of the game, although trailing all the way. They levelled at 1-1, capitalising on a defensive blunder by KCC central defender John Higginson. A poor pass by Higginson was intercepted and quickly transferred to Club's new striker Lincoln Churchill, who cleverly dribbled around the goalie to knock the ball into an empty goal.
KCC went 3-1 ahead soon after half-time before Club reduced the deficit when Chris Marshall scored off a free hit from just outside the circle. But Ali put the game beyond Club with his second goal and KCC, despite losing Gurdev Singh who was yellow carded, easily warded off Club's attacks.
'I suppose they are our bogey team this season. It was not made easier by the act that this was our first game in three weeks. A lot of the guys were away and have just come back and we were not prepared,'' said Club captain and goalkeeper Andy Boulton.
Plans are afoot to have a Super League at the end of this inaugural season with the top four teams qualifying for the Grand Finals. Presently Guangdong are on top of the standings, followed by Shaheen (who beat SSSC A 3-2 yesterday with Asif Ali scoring the match-winning goal two minutes from full-time), Valley and Club respectively. KCC's win yesterday pushed them from seventh to fifth place, one point behind Club. 'This is a welcome win for us. Our aim is to finish in the top four at the end of the two rounds of the League and our chances are good,'' said Ali. With their skipper staying back, KCC will just say amen to that.