South China boss cries foul as referee bungles penalty decisions
While the mainland teeters on the brink of a fresh 'black whistle' scandal, Hong Kong football has a crisis of its own as South China's team manager claimed officiating like the farcical decisions made by referee Chiu Sin-chuen during his side's 5-1 loss to Happy Valley at Mongkok Stadium yesterday have the potential to be just as damaging to the future of the sport.
'That's why no one comes to watch the games. It's happening in every match, not just this one,' said Andy Lee Yun-wah after Chiu made himself a laughing stock by getting two penalty decisions hopelessly and dramatically wrong.
First, with Valley already leading 3-1 he awarded a spot-kick against Chung Ho-yin after the South China goalkeeper saved brilliantly at the feet of Brazilian striker Fabio Lopes Alcantara. The decision, predictably greeted with fury mixed with lashings of disbelief from the Caroliners, was also lambasted by the beneficiaries.
'Never a penalty!' said Valley's English midfielder John Moore, who was warming up behind the goal at the time.
'I was standing by the boards and he got the ball cleanly. The goalkeeper made a classic textbook save in a one-on-one situation. It was never, never a penalty. It was ridiculous.'
Just as Moore finished speaking those words in the final minutes of the match, which had been punctuated ever since with ironic cries from the South China fans appealing for another Happy Valley penalty every time the ball went near their team's goal, Valley teenager Sham Kwok-keung had his legs surgically removed by Chung, only to be shown a yellow card for his pains. 'I didn't touch the ball, just the man,' admitted the keeper.
'That should have been a penalty and I should have been sent off. I think he tried to make up for his mistake. That time I caught the ball. When I heard the whistle I thought it was a free-kick for me!' Afterwards no one was arguing that Chiu's errors affected the outcome of the match, but they were so plainly wrong that one can almost forgive South China for pretty much giving up after Leung Shing-kit had greedily smashed home the controversial spot-kick, his second of the match.
For the record Guy Ambassa also scored twice - from a first-half free-kick and a late breakway - while Marcio Anacleto opened the scoring in the 27th minute, seizing on an underhit backward header from Ng Wai-kwan, to set his side en route to their first victory in four matches.
Yang Yang, one of two mainland teenagers making their debuts for South China, struck a fantastic 35-yard free-kick in reply.
The end result was hardly a classic performance, but it was a significant improvement and enough to send Valley back into the top four.